Should you stay or should you go? US politicians on Brexit

© Reuters
Britons are getting ready to vote on a referendum to exit the European Union, which the UK has been part of for decades. Meanwhile, various US politicians have thrown their weight behind both sides of the debate.

On Thursday, citizens of the United Kingdom will vote for or against leaving the European Union (EU). Supporters say that this will bring unshackle the island country from unaccountable bureaucrats and hefty regulations, but those opposed to the referendum argue that abandoning the bloc would cut the UK off from a valuable common market.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who made misgivings about international trade agreements part of his campaign platform, has come out in support of the ‘Leave’ camp of UK voters.

“I would personally be more inclined to leave, for a lot of reasons, like having a lot less bureaucracy. But I am not a British citizen. This is just my opinion,” Trump said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

For Hillary Clinton, who will almost certainly be the Democratic Party’s nominee, this is yet another issue on which she disagrees with Trump.

“Hillary Clinton believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential, and that cooperation is strongest when Europe is united,” top Clinton adviser Jake Sullivan told the Observer in April. “She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU.”

The former secretary of state is less bullish on the US being part of international trade agreements, however. Last year she came out in opposition of the Obama administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a walk back from her earlier support of the free trade deal.

President Obama, who views the TPP to be one of the most important achievements of his tenure, might be more consistent on the issue. When he visited the UK in April, he gave his moral support to the ‘Remain’ camp by warning against a Brexit.

The president said that if the UK said goodbye to the bloc, it would be at the “back of queue” for trade deals with the United States.

Members of the House of Representatives didn’t think that such a tough forecast for was a good idea for US-UK relations, however. Eleven representatives, led by Rep. George Holding (R-North Carolina) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania), penned a letter urging the Obama administration to not take a stance on the Brexit referendum.

“Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, citizen of the United Kingdom should know that we will continue to regard our relations with the United Kingdom as a central factor in the foreign, security, and trading policies of the United States,” the letter states.

The disagreements extend beyond those purely political or economic. Worries in the EU that a Brexit could lead to less certainty with security agreements such as NATO have been echoed at least one top military official across the Atlantic.

“The UK is such an important member of [NATO],” Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the US Army in Europe, told the BBC in March. “It is a leader in the alliance. It is a leader in Europe. The most reliable trusted friends and allies we have are all European countries and so what goes on here is of strategic interest to us.

“Anything that undermines the effectiveness of the alliance has an impact on us, and so if the EU begins to become unraveled, there can't help but be a knock-on effect for the alliance also,” Hodges added.