With Britain out of the EU, it is reasonable to expect the EU to drift in a more dirigiste and mercantilist direction. The EU also may be more susceptible to influences and leverage from Moscow and Beijing. Future transitions in Paris and Berlin, and the outcome of efforts by other EU member states (such as the Netherlands, Spain, and Finland) to play a bigger role in EU policymaking alongside France and Germany, may determine how coherent and united EU policymaking remains. Experts interviewed did not expect any big new integrationist leaps forward in the medium term, even if member states appear to have agreed (exceptionally) to borrowing by Union collectively to fund the € 750 billion coronavirus recovery fund. Even without Britain, the EU may have become too diverse for such steps.
With UK withdrawal from the EU, the United States will need to determine its approach to the EU. Will the mechanisms of the U.S.-EU relationship, which date to 1990, continue? An Atlantic Council of some sort might need to be created, involving the United States, the UK, and the EU, for discussion of political, foreign policy, economic, and regulatory matters that are outside the scope of NATO. This would at least provide a vehicle for engaging the power and influence of the EU in ways compatible with U.S. interests.
The United States supported the formation of the EU and its development over six decades as a bulwark against the type of hyper-nationalism in Europe that led to two world wars and as an approach to providing a large, integrated market for U.S. exports of goods and services and investment. Even without the UK, the EU will remain a vital partner in political, security, and economic affairs in a challenging world.
Ambassador Charles Ries is vice president, International at the RAND Corporation, where he oversees RAND's international offices and relationships, as well as a senior fellow whose research has focused on the economics of development.