The United Kingdom will have a new prime minister at the end of this month. For the United States, the moment presents an opportunity to reflect on the primary challenge that the new British leader will face: Brexit.
So far, U.S. policymakers appear to have seriously considered Brexit only from an economic perspective. In the run-up to and during Donald Trump’s visit to the United Kingdom last month, for example, U.S. officials and the President himself focused on the post-Brexit economic relationship between London and Washington. National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke of the President’s wish “to make a deal with Britain that will leave both of us better off.” President Trump tweeted about a “big trade deal” and spoke of the “tremendous potential with trade with the United States.” Even when another topic emerges in the American discussion, like the stability of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it is still tied to the economy or, more specifically, a potential free trade agreement.
The economic relationship is crucial, but this narrow debate misses the wide-ranging consequences of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. Brexit should matter for Washington within a broader political context, one that extends to defense, foreign, and security policy. As the United Kingdom reevaluates how it engages with the European Union and, therefore, Europe, so too should the United States.