The Americans, be it President Obama or the last eight treasury secretaries (under both democrat and republicans) have been very clear in their views – Brexit will harm relations between the US and the UK and likely lead to the UK being worse off. There will be no fast track to a US/UK trade deal, instead the UK will go to the back of the queue of nations waiting for this. This directly contradicts a central part of the message that the Brexit camp have been preaching (that the UK will get a better deal from the US if we leave the EU). And no, this is not Obama signing up to “project fear”, because the Americans have been saying pretty much the same thing for several years now.
Given that such statements make a mockery of much of the pro-leave fantasy, the result has been several attacks on the Americans. I think we can ignore the mildly racist birther stuff from Boris, or the suggestions from UKIP that the EU is some sort of anti-colonial plot against the UK (not sure which version of history they are reading, but didn’t the Americans save your butts in the 1940’s?). But the Leave camp also accuse the Americans of “hypocrisy”, after all, the US would never surrender its sovereignty to another nation or pay the Mexicans billions a year to be a member of the same club? Would they? Well actually they will and they do! A little geography and geopolitics lesson is in order for the leave campaigners.
You see the US is a “federal” system, not a single nation state, i.e. not unlike the EU. The US is a union of 50 states, all with effective internal sovereignty over a wide range of issues (a state constitution, state supreme court, state police, national guard, a governor, legislative branch, etc.), all highly competitive with one another and with a very diverse array of different politics, economics and cultures.
California for example has a population of 38 million, while Wyoming has only about half a million. Texas is twice the land area of Germany. New York state has an economy as big as Spain, despite having a population a fraction of the size of Spain. While solidly republican, Texas and Iowa are both strong promoters of wind energy. California, while consistently one of the most liberal states in the union, tends to elect Republican governors. And while the sales taxes in California is around 8%, its half that in Obama’s home state of Hawaii and its zero in the liberal leaning state of Oregon. And needless to say there’s a world of a difference between the Cajun culture of Louisiana and the cowboy rodeo’s of the Great Plains.
And as I discussed in a prior post, many US states are net contributors to the US federal government, knowing that there are other states that are net receivers (i.e. they get more back from the US federal government than its citizens pay in taxes). Do you see Californians lining up to call for “Cal-exit” (or should that be Californication?). Or New Yorkers calling for Nyexit? No….although if Trump gets elected that might well change…because they understand that the strength of America is that its union is greater than the sum of its parts. They would all be worse off without the USA. A house divided will fall and all that.
Indeed the only major difference between the US and the EU is that the US represents tighter more federal union. There are plenty of people, including Winston Churchill (and recently Jeremy Clarkson of all people) who will argue that the problem with the EU isn’t that the Brussels is too powerful, but that its too weak and not sufficiently democratically accountable. They argue that ceding further powers to Brussels, making the post of EU president a democratically elected post (by the people, much like in the US…oh & btw given the UK’s population that would make the UK a key “swing state” in any such election), including a second chamber in the EU parliament (i.e. eliminating the unelected commissioners and replacing them with a democratically elected body, with each country getting at least one seat at the table) and you would solve many of the supposed problems with the EU.
And as for ceding sovereignty to Mexico (a specific claim made by Boris Johnson) well that’s equivalent to asking whether the UK or the EU would cede sovereignty to Russia. And on the issue of trade, and to a certain extent immigration, yes the US HAS ceded some sovereignty to Mexico and Canada under the terms of NAFTA and reaped the rewards for that.
So all such statements show is how little the Brexit camp know about America and also how unlikely it will be that they will get their way with the Americans afterwards.It is also worrying to see how far to the right the Leave camp have drifted, given that they are now spouting the sort of birther cram that even Trump gave up on sometime ago. Indeed in amongst Boris’s bluster there is a very serious risk of him antagonising the Americans to the point where they quickly distance themselves from the UK and refuse to talk to the country so long as we allow the lunatics to run the asylum.