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Brexit” – the possibility that Thursday, the United Kingdom (UK) will vote to leave the European Union (EU) – deserves every bit of the exhaustive media coverage and commentary its received. Although there’s major (and understandable) disagreement over the economic and geopolitical impact of a “Leave” victory, there’s no doubt that the effects could be seismic on both fronts. Especially momentous would be a post-Brexit decision by other members of the floundering EU to follow suit, producing the breakup not only of the world’s biggest integrated market, but of a genuinely historic experiment in political integration and transnational governance.

I have no particular dog in this hunt – but strongly believe that the British have every right to decide whether to continue its EU membership, and that foreigners, and particularly foreign leaders, should tread carefully in offering their opinions. I’m also agnostic on the reverberations for Britain– in part because I haven’t studied the UK economy very closely.

Something I am sure of, however, is that contrary to much of the flood of Brexit-bred pontificating (notably from President Obama), Britain’s decision won’t hold important lessons for the United States either way. The reason: The UK’s economic and geopolitical situation is nothing like America’s.

This observation may sound obvious, but as I’ve written, since U.S. foreign policy’s (current) internationalist era began at the outset of World War II, American leaders and strategists practically across the board have justified non-stop, all-but-limitless global engagement by pointing to the nation’s acute exposure to all manner of threats and opportunities generated abroad. Their reasoning – which was articulated best by pundit, philosopher, and adviser to presidents Walter Lippmann – sprung from the belief that the United States was best seen as a big version of Britain.

That is, geographically it’s an island that floats in “an immense oceanic lake of which the other great powers control the shores” and therefore (my phrasing) enjoy “an unbeatable combination of geographic advantage, boast combined military potential far greater than America’s, and in an age of long-range air power, are located much closer [to the United States]” than Lippmann’s historically complacent countrymen realized.

I explained that Lippmann, and other internationalists, couldn’t be more off-base, because the United States and Britain couldn’t have less in common economically and geopolitically. Especially relevant to the Brexit debate and its implications for the United States, America boasts all the major resources and other assets needed for all the economic independence it genuinely needs – including a domestic market more than large enough to support production of the full range of goods and services at scales large enough to be profitable.

Conversely, Britain overwhelmingly lacks these advantages. This hardly means that leaving the EU is sure to be an economically foolhardy choice for the UK. In principle, the benefits of Brexit could exceed the costs of EU membership (like excessive pan-European regulations and Open Borders immigration policies). Britain could also boost its long-term productivity – and chances for greater prosperity – with a “Leave”-inspired burst of reform. But there can’t be any legitimate doubt that the UK is in a much weaker position than the United States to pursue such a go-it-alone strategy.

It’s also important to note that the British people could decide – as is their sovereign right – that restoring what they see as their pre-EU degree of political independence matters more than any conceivable economic risks they might run.

But the vote and whatever consequences it produces for Britain is not, as widely portrayed, a universal test of the pluses and minuses of free trade and the current version of globalization. As such, it should have no bearing on U.S. decisions on integrating more extensively with the global economy (as President Obama and the rest of the political and economic establishment seek), or starting to back away (as presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seems to favor).

Clearly, the United States has longstanding historic and cultural ties with the UK, along with close economic and security relations. But the superior economic choices it faces are in a class by themselves – and they’ll remain so as long as Americans remember that their country isn’t Britain.

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