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July 28, 2016

International Affairs

A group of people stand alongside a newspaper banner in which The Evening Standard in London reflects the news that the UK has voted to leave the EU, and its PM David Cameron has resigned

DavidCallan/iStock

After Brexit, What's Next?

On June 23, British voters sent shockwaves around the world when they voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Although polls leading up to the election showed the "remain" and "leave" camps in a very close race, the "remain" campaign was expected to prevail. Now that the people have spoken, what is next for Britain? How will Brexit affect the transatlantic alliance and future trade agreements with the United States? In the days following the referendum, RAND experts analyzed these issues in a series of commentaries.

Featured Commentaries

Time for a Do-Over on Brexit

March for Europe demonstration against Britain's decision to leave the European Union

Former Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Ambassador to the European Community James Dobbins writes that EU member states have an established method for dealing with unsatisfactory referenda: a do-over. The Danish people rejected once, and the Irish twice, treaties to expand EU powers. In all three instances, new elections were held that gave voters a chance to reverse course.

As the consequences of Brexit become apparent, some voters who supported leaving the EU will likely have a change of heart. Instead of pushing the British out the door, EU leaders should demonstrate patience, allow the British people to come to grips with the consequence of the vote, and make some slight gesture that would be sufficient to justify a national change of mind.

Read more »

The Future of Transatlantic Security

awn breaks behind the Houses of Parliament

In his analysis of Brexit's impact on transatlantic security, Chris Chivvis explains the referendum is a blow to the EU's attempt to create a common defense policy, poses questions for NATO, and has a limited near term impact on Britain's practical cooperation with both the United States and Europe. With respect to NATO, the referendum could embolden Russia, cause resentment between French and German leaders and their British counterparts, and lead to a cut in British defense spending.

The greatest impact, however, will be on EU efforts to forge a common defense policy that would allow it to take autonomous action outside of NATO. Without the British, the EU's military and defense capabilities are considerably reduced. Regarding relations with the United States, Chivvis asserts that "U.S. leaders will surely continue to seek to sustain a close special relationship with the U.K. in the security and defense arena. Close cooperation on intelligence, nuclear issues, special forces and critical overseas counterterrorism operations and other issues is certain to continue."

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Why Brexit Won't Necessarily Hurt NATO

Puzzle with the flags of Great Britain and NATO

Michael Spirtas takes a close look at Brexit's impact on NATO. While there will be fallout from the referendum that spreads beyond economics, it is far too early to expect a significant weakening of NATO. He points out that Britain has traditionally been ambivalent about cooperating with Europe, at times embracing closer integration with the continent while at other times maintaining its independence.

But when it comes to NATO, the British have been among the strongest supporters of the alliance since its foundation. Spirtas writes that "instances like Brexit, Russian activism, and the fate of NATO are not the same thing. They affect one another, but their interaction is more complex than some of the immediate reaction to Brexit implies. It is good to be wary, but it is far too early to panic."

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Grasping the Brexit Moment for Free Trade

A British flag flutters in front of a window in London

Britain's decision to leave the EU provides an opportunity to jump-start the stalled Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, contends Howard Shatz. The United States should now negotiate a free trade deal with Britain, use the British exit to emphasize to the EU the desirability for it to integrate with the United States, and finalize the TTIP. This could ease uncertainties and restore confidence in the global economy.

The U.S. and British economies share many similarities, which should make negotiating a deal fairly easy. Without Britain, the EU economy is smaller and weaker. The TTIP could help the EU restore growth and dynamism. According to Shatz, "The opportunity is unique, and success could help salvage the U.K., EU, and world economies from damage that could be induced by the exit of the U.K. from the EU."

Read more »

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Jayme Fuglesten
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Kurt Card
Legislative Analyst

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