FPI Conference Call: The Brexit Vote

Download and Listen to this Call

Expert Speakers:

Dr. Theodore R. Bromund
Heritage Foundation

Ambassador Kristen Silverberg
Institute of International Finance

Moderated by:

James Kirchick
Foreign Policy Initiative

Key Quotations

The Mood in London

“If I had to pick a single word to describe the atmosphere here it would probably be ‘fraught.’ … I don’t think I’ve ever been here at a time when more people are more nervous and uncertain about an election or referendum outcome than they are this time. If you take a look at the most recent poll of polls, it is exactly 50-50… Right now, both campaigns are really very much in turnout-mode, particularly the Leave campaign.” – Dr. Bromund

“I have heard Brexiters say, ‘This is it, if we lose it’s done.’ And I’ve heard people say, ‘You know, the fight starts up again tomorrow.’  And everything else in between.  So my own take is that there is a periodicity in British concern about the EU or its predecessors and it tends to pop up as an issue about every ten to fifteen years. It’s possible that this referendum will break that periodicity, but I think that that sort of cycle is basically caused by the fact that the EU was never fundamentally designed with British interests in mind. It was designed ultimately with Franco-German interests in mind, and that therefore, British discontent is natural and inevitable because the fit is just not great.” – Dr. Bromund

The Economic Consequences of Brexit

“Almost everything we need to do with the U.K. is going to depend on a growing U.K. economy and I think the Brexit does pose some real risk in that regard, particularly in the short and the mid-term. Which is why you’ve seen the OECD and the IMF and the Bank of England, Bank of Canada, Bank of Japan, and so on all raising those concerns. Obviously, conventional wisdom can be wrong. But, in this case, there is such a high degree of consensus, conventional wisdom would have to be way off.” – Ambassador Silverberg

“I think it would be really important for the U.S. to move quickly in the event of a Brexit vote to do what it can to ensure that the U.K. succeeds economically.  And part of that would be to make quick commitments to negotiate a bilateral free-trade agreement.  Some of it would be keeping pressure on in Brussels to encourage the Europeans to think about their enlightened self-interest in their negotiations with the U.K. rather than their sort of inevitable desire to punish the Brits for leaving.” – Ambassador Silverberg

“I don’t think Brexit by itself creates, you know, some sort of magic bullet answer to European or U.K. economic growth. But it does open up the possibility… for the U.K. to go in a much more classically liberal, free market, open economic, smaller state, less regulatory burden kind of direction… It’s not true of course that all people who support Brexit are free marketers, but it’s generally true that a lot of free marketers support Brexit.” – Dr. Bromund

Brexit and the U.S.-U.K. Special Relationship

“So much of the special relationship rests on things that are not related to the E.U…  Obviously there is the security and intelligence cooperation, which is not EU-related, but also there’s the enormous tourist trade, there’s the interrelationship of the scientific institutions, the universities, all of that kind of stuff which really just doesn’t relate to the EU in any substantial way at all.  So I tend to think that there is the possibility of some improvements in the special relationship if Britain exits the EU, but that basically our relationship is considerably older and deeper than the EU and it’s likely not to change radically one way or the other.” – Dr. Bromund

“If the U.K. succeeds economically then I completely agree with Ted that the U.K. and the U.S. will navigate our relationship fine. If the U.K. really struggles, if all the predictions about a short to midterm recession are correct, then I think we’re in a different situation.  I think the U.K. would be distracted, and ill-resourced, and probably not a particularly good ally.  So I think we need to do what we can to sort of head off the worst case scenario.” – Ambassador Silverberg

Brexit and a Transatlantic Security Agenda

“There is zero chance that we would have secured tough Iran sanctions as we did in 2012 without U.K. advocacy to those questions. The European-U.S. approach to Russia, well I think there is no question of staying on roughly the same page without U.K. advocacy. So…there’s a broader question of whatever the cost to the U.S. is if we no longer have our most like-minded ally helping to sort of navigate the EU debates on security issues.” – Ambassador Silverberg

“Yes the Europeans are frustrating, we have many disagreements with them.  I still will take them as allies over most of our other alternatives. In part because of their importance to us. You know when we deploy militarily, we inevitably do it with Europeans. When we have a major national security agenda, we inevitably do it with Europeans. We’re certainly and usually dependent on them economically. So it would take a lot for me to say we have to write off the continent. I think it’s a much better approach to figure out, okay ‘how do we make sure that this very important player stays as closely tied to the U.S. as possible and how do we navigate our inevitable disagreements?’” – Ambassador Silverberg

Brexit’s Consequences for the U.K.’s Global Role

“The EU to my mind in short is basically fairly inward-looking. So I don’t think that Brexit necessarily means that the U.K. is going to adopt a greater world role. But the kind of place that would want to be outside the European Union is the kind of place that has a greater likelihood of wanting to play such a role. And while I agree resources are extremely important, the basic problem that the U.K. has had, over the last, I would argue over several decades, though there have obviously been ups and downs there, has been largely one of a lack of desire to play a role, rather than a lack of resources to play that role.” – Dr. Bromund

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Theodore R. Bromund studies and writes on Anglo-American relations, U.S. and British relations with Europe and the European Union, the U.S.’s leadership role in the world, and international organizations and treaties as senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. Bromund, who joined Heritage in 2008, previously served nine years as associate director of Yale University’s International Security Studies, a center dedicated to the study and teaching of diplomatic history and grand strategy. He was a lecturer in history and, from 2004, in international affairs for Yale’s Master of Arts program. A columnist for Newsday and for Great Britain’s Yorkshire Post, Bromund also writes regularly for National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, FoxNews.com and Breitbart News’ National Security, and, in Britain, The Commentator. He has been interviewed or cited by BBC News, CBS News, Fox News Channel, CNN, Radio Free Europe, Christian Science Monitor, Time and the Financial Times, among others.

Besides contributing articles to scholarly journals, he is the author of a chapter on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the book The Blair Legacy: Politics, Policy, Governance, and Foreign Affairs (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). In 2013, Bromund was recognized by the Second Amendment Foundation as its Scholar of the Year for his analysis of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. Bromund received his doctorate in history in 1999 from Yale. His thesis on Britain’s first application to the European Economic Community won the Samuel H. Beer Dissertation Prize from the American Political Science Association’s British Politics Group. He is an Adjunct Professor of Strategic Studies in the Strategic Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, where he teaches courses on grand strategy. He also holds two master’s degrees in history from Yale as well as a bachelor of arts degree from Iowa’s Grinnell College. A native of Wooster, Ohio, he currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Ambassador Kristen Silverberg is Managing Director and General Counsel at the IIF. She previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union from 2008 to 2009 where she led a mission of 100 diplomats from 8 federal agencies. From 2005 to 2008, she served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, where she managed a team of 300 and oversaw U.S. contributions to the United Nations of over $3.5 billion. Prior to her time at the State Department, she held a number of senior positions at the White House, including Deputy Assistant to the President and Advisor to the Chief of Staff. She served in 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq for which she received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Ambassador Silverberg formerly practiced law at Williams and Connolly, LLP in Washington, DC and served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals. She attended Harvard College and the University of Texas School of Law, where she graduated with High Honors. Ambassador Silverberg serves on the Board of Directors of Vorbeck Materials and on the Advisory Board of Beacon Global Strategies. In 2009, she was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.

James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative. A journalist and foreign correspondent now based in Washington, he has reported from Southern and North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and the Caucasus. For over three years, Kirchick worked at The New Republic, covering domestic politics, lobbying, intelligence, and American foreign policy. Following The New Republic, he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague, writing about the politics and cultures of the 21 countries in RFE/RL’s broadcast region. Among the stories he covered were the fraudulent 2010 presidential election in Belarus, ethnic cleansing in Kyrgyzstan, and the Libyan Civil War.

Kirchick’s writing has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The American Interest, The Virginia Quarterly Review, World Affairs, Commentary, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, among many other publications. He is a Daily Beast correspondent, a columnist for Ha’aretz and the New York Daily News, and writes the "Continental Drift" column on Europe for Tablet. His writing has also been published in Britain's Prospect and Spectator, Canada's National Post, the Czech Republic's Lidove Noviny and The Australian.  Kirchick has previously worked for The New York Sun, the New York Daily News, and The Hill. A leading voice on American gay politics and international gay rights, he is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Journalist of the Year Award. He was a 2012-2013 Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Berlin, and has previously been a Hoover Institution Media Fellow and Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow. Kirchick was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale College in 2006.

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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