June 30, 2016 | By Ivo H. Daalder

This Week’s Reads — Brexit Aftermath


Demonstrators take part in a protest aimed at showing London's solidarity with the European Union following the recent EU referendum on June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

A week after Britain’s referendum and the dust has barely begun to settle. As was widely predicted, Brexit shocked international markets and altered the landscape of European politics. It torpedoed the political career of Prime Minister David Cameron and lifted the profiles of various “Leave” politicians. But beyond these immediate impacts, the medium- and long-term consequences of Brexit are mostly unclear.

Will the populist forces that propelled Brexit lead to political upheaval elsewhere? Looking at Europe, this seems likely. Already, we are seeing calls for Brexit-style referendums in the Netherlands and France. There are voices within Scotland and Ireland calling to leave the United Kingdom, and there are powerful nationalist movements across the continent emboldened by the Brexit outcome. Looking at the US, similar forces are at work with Trumpsim at the forefront.

What about Brexit’s strategic consequences? Earlier this week, I wrote in the Financial Times about the importance of American diplomacy in ensuring the European project not unravel. But this is not simply an American responsibility. It is now clear that the downside risks of Brexit are global in nature and that the post-1945 international order is corroding. Global and European—rather than national—solutions are more important now than ever.

In sum, Brexit has ushered in a moment of profound uncertainty for the United Kingdom and has raised big questions about the future of Europe and the liberal world order. This week’s reads examine the Brexit outcome from important historical, political, and economic perspectives.

America Must Move to Save the European Project

Ivo Daalder/Financial Times

It is profoundly in America’s interest to work closely with all of its European allies, especially Germany, to forestall the unraveling of the European project, which has produced unprecedented peace and prosperity in Europe over the past 70 years. The Brexit vote puts it all at risk. A divided Europe poses a profound threat to America, and Washington can no longer rely on European leaders to do the right thing. I believe America must once again stand at the center of Europe to help make all this possible. This is a defining moment for Europe—and for America.

Britain Rattles Postwar Order and Its Place as Pillar of Stability

Jim Yardley, Alison Smale, Jane Perlez, and Ben Hubbard/The New York Times

Britain’s choice to leave the European Union is generating uncertainty about an even bigger question: Is the post-1945 order imposed on the world by the United States and its allies unraveling? Britain has been a pillar in that order and a beneficiary. Now it symbolizes cracks in the postwar foundation. It’s not that this, in and of itself, will completely destroy the international order, but it sets a precedent. In the wake of Brexit, Europe faces the parallel challenges of holding itself together and retaining its global influence.

How a Cautious Nation Came to Tear down the Political Temple

Philip Stephens/Financial Times

Philip Stephens says the Brexit vote was a revolt against the status quo. Globalization was not working and had turned big business into bad politics. Stephens says Britain’s exit will have consequences, national and international, as profound as anything seen in postwar Europe. “It marks a retreat from the world,” making Britain poorer at home and diminished internationally.

Brexit and the Making of a Global Crisis

Gideon Rachman/Financial Times

Brexit was a British decision but a global shock, writes Gideon Rachman. In an examination of the fallout from Brexit, Rachman says the “dangerous introspection” within Britain and the European Union is likely to intensify. As the British, European, and global order experiences instability from Brexit, Rachman says political turmoil within the United Kingdom will only worsen the situation. Germany, France, and other EU leaders now fear for the very survival of a “European Project” they have spent 60 years building.

Britain Fires a Shot Heard ’Round the World

Gerard Baker/Wall Street Journal

The implications of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union may have resonance in the United States as the most powerful demonstration yet of a rising populist tide transforming the established order. Its appeal had much in common with surging popular anger seen across the United States: support cutting across party lines, a powerful anti-incumbent sentiment, a frustration with established political leaders, and a desire for change. Britain experienced a political earthquake. The aftershocks may reverberate far beyond its shores.

How Leave Outgunned Remain: The Battle of the 'Five Ms'

Charles Gant/Centre for European Reform

Charles Gant writes that the Remain campaign suffered from five disadvantages that ultimately led to defeat in the UK referendum: the messengers, the message, migration, the media, and the campaign machine. “Leave had better salesmen,” he writes, and the arguments for remaining were complicated and dull. The Remain campaign never developed a confident argument on migration, choosing instead to pivot. Meanwhile, the British media vociferously backed the Leave campaign, and the Leave campaign’s machine was highly focused and ruthless, understanding that it could disregard facts to win.

After ‘Brexit,’ Three Centuries of Unity in Britain Are in Danger

Max Fisher/The New York Times

When the UK referendum polls’ closed, it seemed something more basic could be at risk: Britain as a multinational state. Max Fisher says it is hard to miss the significance that voters in one of the world’s most successful multinational states chose to leave the world’s largest multinational government, even though the United Kingdom’s four nations disagreed on that choice to a striking degree. He says it speaks to the promise of multinationalism that its most committed adherents in the United Kingdom were eager to be tied to something larger, even if might mean leaving the old partnership behind.

Opinions How Brexit Is a Win for Putin

Michael McFaul/The Washington Post

For decades, the West was consolidating as the East was disintegrating. That trend has now reversed, says Michael McFaul. Brexit weakens Europe as Russia and its multilateral allies and organizations are consolidating. Putin’s foreign policy objectives stand to gain enormously from this: One of the most principled critics of Russian aggression will no longer have a vote in Brussels; new doubts about the utility of EU membership will weaken Putin’s opponents in Ukraine; other pro-Putin, anti-EU politicians and movements in Europe just became a little stronger; and America’s closest voting ally in multilateral forums just became a little weaker.

Can Brexit Be Stopped? Anything Is Possible

Philip Stephens/Financial Times

A UK petition to overturn last week’s Brexit decision is up to 3.3 million signatures and counting. Could the nation change its mind? Philip Stephens says anything is possible, but, as things stand, one can make only two statements with confidence: First, Brexiters are about to discover that unraveling Britain’s relationship with the EU will be costly and hugely disruptive. Second, something truly extraordinary would have to happen before parliament decided to overturn the will of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit in the referendum.

How David Cameron Blew It

Tom McTague, Alex Spence, and Edward-Isaac Dovere/Politico

“Message failure,” “betrayal,” a “flopped” deal, and internal divisions are among the main themes of a deep dive into the Remain campaign. In more than two dozen interviews conducted over a span of months with the leaders of the Stronger In and Vote Leave campaigns, senior Downing Street officials and sources in the Conservative and Labor parties paint a picture of a Remain effort that misread the public mood and couldn’t overcome numerous campaign setbacks.

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