June 24, 2016

CNAS Press Note: Brexit and its Security Implications

Washington, June 24 – On news that the people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith and CNAS Strategy and Statecraft Program Research Associate Rachel Rizzo have written a new Press Note, “Brexit and its Security Implications.”

The full Press Note is below:

Yesterday, the people of the United Kingdom voted in a historic referendum in favor of leaving the 28-nation European Union. In recent weeks, polls have been neck in neck, and many experts believed that come voting day, the “Remain” campaign would come out ahead. Although the referendum is not legally binding, the majority of British citizens have voiced their support of an independent U.K., and now the world awaits next steps from Prime Minister Cameron. The Prime Minister has said he will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which will begin the two-year “withdrawal negotiation” process between the EU and the UK. The vote in favor of Brexit will have lasting implications for not only the UK but also the EU, the United States, and the global economy. 

While many analysts are focused on the economic implications and closely watching the value of the British pound, the vote carries security implications as well.  It will issue a crushing blow to an already ailing European Union, jeopardizing a number of important counter terrorism measures in which the UK plays an integral part.  The two-year process in which the UK will negotiate its exit will also weaken European resolve and unity in the face of a resurgent Russia.  In recent years, Putin has done his very best to fracture and divide Europe, and this vote grants him a significant win, especially as it could dissolve European unity on sanctions.  Finally, the UK vote could very well be the beginning of a wider unravelling of the EU.  Scotland may hold another referendum.  Others might follow suit.  While the United States is not a member of the EU, the organization has for years been one of America’s strongest partners, not just economically, but in terms of promoting international norms and values. It is in America’s interest to see the European project succeed.  

Smith, Rizzo, and many other CNAS experts are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or 202-457-9409.


  • Julianne Smith

    Former Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Julianne (“Julie”) Smith is a contributing editor to Foreign Policy, where she coedits “Shadow Government.” She is also a senior advisor at WestExec Advisors, an adjunct senio...

  • Rachel Rizzo

    Former Adjunct Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Rachel Rizzo is an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), working in the Transatlantic Security Program. Her research focuses on European security, N...