After Brexit, Britain will not retreat
By Crispin Blunt,
Crispin Blunt is a Conservative member of Parliament, where he chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The unexpected result of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has created uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic. This uncertainty was exacerbated by the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, which has led to a cacophony of claims that Britain will no longer be a global international player, be a close ally of the United States or continue to have strong economic ties with Europe. As the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament, I reject that view. Isolationism will not serve Britain’s or the United States’ interests.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry was right to fly to Brussels this week and call on European leaders to continue to work with Britain in a constructive manner. Also, President Obama was right to call for calm and to say that Brexit did not mean that NATO or the special relationship between our two countries was at risk. I have always believed that the world is safer when Britain and the United States play a strong international role in the world. I am confident this relationship will endure.
Much of the U.S. narrative about the referendum has focused on the disgraceful behavior of a minority of Brexit voters who engaged in some appalling hate crimes based on people’s nationality. I fear that Donald Trump’s candidacy, combined with his trip to Scotland, made that narrative too tempting to resist. Alternatively, many have said that Obama’s intervention before the referendum somehow shifted thousands of voters from “remain” to “leave.” In all candor, the Brexit vote wasn’t about Trump, Obama or the United States.
Britain has always been a hesitant and halfhearted member of the European Union. Many Europeans quip that we invented the phrase “opt out.” We aren’t in the single currency, and we aren’t in the Schengen borderless area. The British people were never committed to the principle of European integration, even if political leaders such as former prime minister Tony Blair were. This tension, which has lasted for decades, created a corrosive disconnect between politicians and the public, and it culminated in the vote to leave.
My view was that Britain needed to decide to either wholeheartedly commit to the European project, or get out of the way and stop obstructing those countries that had. Britain has opted for the latter. The Brexit result is not a retreat into splendid isolation, nor a sign of bigotry and xenophobia. The British people called for our own politicians to reflect and renegotiate Britain’s role with Europe and, by extension, the world. I intend to do my part to ensure that Britain does so in a constructive, open and inclusive matter.
We will continue to hold firm to our commitment to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 0.7 percent on foreign aid. Our defense and aid expenditures combined will continue to be the largest investment by share of GDP and in absolute terms of any European country in global security and stability. Britain will remain a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, a member of the Group of Seven advanced economies and a strong partner in NATO, and shortly will be an independent voice in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the World Trade Organization. In all of these organizations, we will continue to work with the E.U. Britain will not retreat into a corner; on the contrary, we will remain an outward-looking democracy, working closely with friends and allies to defend our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rules-based international order.
I am very optimistic about Britain’s future, particularly with regard to the United States. Despite the uncertainty of the leave negotiation, which will last for at least two years, Britain can soon begin to lay the foundations of an eventual free-trade agreement with the United States. Obama said that Britain had to get to “the back of the queue” for a trade deal, but this seems to be a queue of one. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asia is now opposed by both Hillary Clinton and Trump, so it looks to be hitting the rocks. The potential E.U.-U.S. Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) could take years to negotiate, if an agreement is reached at all, and is in trouble on this side of the Atlantic. A Britain with an independent trade policy should be able to negotiate an agreement much faster, presenting opportunities for U.S. and British businesses, particularly in the fields of automotive, aerospace, energy, pharmaceuticals and audiovisual services, as well as other professional services.
Britain is looking forward to a positive relationship with our European and American partners to secure both a prosperous future and the advancement of our freedoms.
Read more on this issue: Anne Applebaum: What the media get wrong about Brexit The Post’s View: The antidote to Brexit: A strong NATO The Post’s View: Stopping dark forces in our post-Brexit world David Ignatius: To be fixed, Europe needs a wrecking ball