February 18, 2016

CNAS Press Note: “Brexit,” the EU, and David Cameron

Washington, February 18 – With British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels for negotiations with the European Union over Britain’s status in the EU, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith has written a new Press Note: “’Brexit,’ the EU, and David Cameron.”

The full Press Note is below:

British Prime Minister David Cameron is in Brussels this week meeting with European Union (EU) leaders.  He’s there to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s EU membership before his country votes on a possible exit from the EU.  When Cameron first voiced support of a referendum back in January 2013, a British exit from the EU seemed a remote possibility.

But in the wake of months of weak economic performance by Europe, combined with a migration crisis of historic proportions, national polls in the UK show a worrying uptick in anti-EU sentiment. A referendum on the matter is expected before the end of 2017.  Cameron has said he’ll encourage the UK to remain a member of the EU as long as his demands are met. Those demands include securing recognition that the Euro is not the only currency of the EU, restricting access to benefits for migrants, and granting greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation so as to avoid being drawn further into political integration.

The EU is considering these requests as a “Brexit” (British exit). It fears the “Brexit” would issue a devastating blow to an institution already in crisis.  A Brexit would also pose strategic challenges for both the UK and the U.S., potentially threatening the historically deep relationship between the U.S. and the UK. Post-Brexit, the UK would be subject to the same tariffs and trade-related measures as countries like China or India. It could also cause economic uncertainty and put downward pressure on the British Pound and the Euro.

Telling another country what is in their national interest is rarely a good idea. But, in this case, senior leaders in the U.S. should stress privately to British counterparts the strategic, political, and economic risks a UK departure from the EU would pose.

Smith is 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...