On a recent trip to London we were reminded of the importance of Great Britain to the free world, and the Special Relationship that binds the United States and the United Kingdom. Our meetings with Members of the Cabinet and backbench MPs were dominated by the upcoming referendum on EU membership. We were struck by the positive, hopeful vision of our hosts, who all strongly backed Brexit, but were disheartened by the negativity and fear being projected by the pro-EU side throughout Britain’s media.
The contrast could not have been starker – between a message of genuine optimism on the Brexit side, and the language of gloom and doom emanating from the Remain camp. It was frankly sad to witness an intensely negative campaign by those who suggest that Britain will not benefit from being a free and independent nation.
It is unthinkable that Americans would ever subject themselves to the kind of suffocating supranationalism that exists within the EU, with nation states surrendering large amounts of their sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats in a distant capital, with their courts overruled by foreign judges. It is all the more disturbing therefore that the leader of the free world, the president of the United States, has chosen to warn our British friends against leaving the EU.
After seven years of weakening US leadership on the world stage and eroding America’s global standing, Barack Obama has the gall to cross the Atlantic and lecture America’s closest friend and ally on how it should decide its own future. In Washington, Mr. Obama has become a lame duck, whiling away the last few months before he exits the Oval Office. But he remains determined to ‘lead from behind’ on the issue of Brexit, even when he has no business meddling in Britain’s internal affairs.
Brexit is a matter for the British people to decide, and President Obama should not lecture another country to remain in a situation the American people would never tolerate.
Ignore the childish scaremongering coming from the White House. If the British people decide to leave the EU, their national security will be enhanced, not least because Britain can retake full control of its own borders. And the NATO alliance would actually be strengthened, rather than weakened, if Britain left the EU. The European Commission’s drive to create a European Union Army would draw vital resources away from NATO, and lead to duplication of key military assets in Europe. It is NATO, not the EU, that has secured peace in Europe in the post-World War Two era.
There are also significant economic benefits from Brexit, with economic freedom likely to flourish. The United States, and no doubt a host of countries from India to Canada and Australia, would rush to sign bilateral trade agreements with the fifth largest economy in the world, and for centuries a truly global power. It is simply ludicrous to think, as President Obama’s chief trade negotiator has suggested, that London will struggle to get a free trade agreement with Washington, and would be treated like China or Brazil if Brexit takes place.
On Capitol Hill, legislators will be probably queueing to take the lead in pushing for trade negotiations with a country that is the second largest foreign direct investor in the US after Japan. A stunning 22 percent of America’s overseas corporate assets – almost $5 trillion – are based in the UK. There is no way the next US administration, regardless of who is in the White House, would hold back from making a US/UK free trade area a top priority – there is simply too much at stake in terms of American jobs and investment.
A British exit from the EU would be good for Britain, Europe, and the United States. A United Kingdom that is not shackled to a declining EU that is mired in a culture of big government, soaring public debt and welfare dependency, would be a better partner for the US. A resurgent, self-confident Britain that looks outward to the world instead of inward, that is free to shape its own destiny, decide its own laws, craft its own foreign and security policies, and negotiate its own trade deals, can only strengthen the Anglo-American Special Relationship. A Great Britain that has absolute control of its own borders will also be a stronger partner in the fight against ISIS and Islamist terrorism.
Our former Heritage Patron, Margaret Thatcher, loved the United States and cherished the bonds that tie our two great nations together. She condemned the European Project, the idea of a European superstate, as “perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era.” The Iron Lady was absolutely right about the dangers of ever-closer union and rampant supranationalism in Europe, and how it threatened both Britain and the transatlantic alliance. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lady Thatcher’s leadership on the world stage. Her warnings against a federal Europe have come true. Today, Great Britain has an opportunity to be a free country once again. If the British people seize the day and break free of the EU, this should be a cause for celebration and rejoicing on both sides of the Atlantic.
Jim DeMint is the President of The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, and Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at Heritage,