What Brookings experts are saying about Brexit

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UPDATED, 6/30/16

Voters in the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. British PM David Cameron has resigned. The choice in favor of “Brexit” will have significant economic and political consequences that Brookings scholars have been analyzing and commenting on. Here is some of what they are saying.

Philippe Le Corre: “Will France rally around the European ideal and forge an alliance with Germany to save the EU? Or will it follow the UK and become a gravedigger of the European project? The latter is more likely.” Read more »

Stuart Brotman: “Under Brexit, the U.K. will now have to innovate more from within, which includes expanding its digital talent pool primarily within its geographic borders. This may be difficult to sustain since digital expertise will be more readily available in neighboring countries that remain part of the EU.” Read more »

Watch Brookings experts discuss Brexit at a recent event »

Julie Wagner and Bruce Katz: “U.S. cities and innovation districts have demonstrated that progress can persist even when higher levels of government are adrift. U.K. cities and districts can do the same.” Read more »

Thomas Wright: “Political contagion has emerged as an incredibly powerful and important idea that is poised to shape Europe’s future. Unfortunately, it has been repeated as mantra and has not been subjected to careful scrutiny.” Read more »

Dhruva Jaishankar: “Brexit represents the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy.” Read more »

Riccardo Alcaro: “To put it bluntly, Brexit is a severe blow to the U.K., to the EU, and to the international liberal order. Worse still, it might trigger a chain reaction that could turn it into a full-blown catastrophe.” Read more »

Ben Bernanke: “Even more obvious now than before the vote is that the biggest losers, economically speaking, will be the British themselves. … In the United States, the economic recovery is unlikely to be derailed by the market turmoil, so long as conditions in financial markets don’t get significantly worse: The strengthening of the dollar and the declines in U.S. equities are relatively moderate so far.” Read more »

Richard Reeves: “Brexit was an unnecessary referendum staged to settle an internal Tory party squabble. David Cameron was playing with fire. And now the whole house is burning.” Read more » 

David Wessel, Fiona Hill, and Philippe Le Corre on Facebook Live »

Matteo Garavoglia: “A rather homogenous socio-demographic group of white, poor, uneducated, elderly, and rural Englishmen have pulled the rest of Britain outside the European Union. … Europeans, meanwhile, have to catch up on the time they spent dealing with 40 years of British foot-dragging. Great opportunities are out there to be seized.” Read more »

David Dollar: “Brexit has little direct effect on the Chinese economy though it does increase the risk of financial volatility. In the long run it is hard to see it as anything but a plus for China as the West continues to decline and China continues to rise.” Read more »

Michael O’Hanlon: “… after acknowledging such real, if finite, concerns, we should take a deep breath and relax. … it is true that we need to take seriously the skepticism about globalization that UK voters have just voiced in a powerful and emphatic way. But the postwar global order is hardly falling apart.” Read more »

Steven Koltai: “The historic vote in the UK to leave the EU, is nothing short of the beginning of the end of these institutional frameworks [e.g., the EU, World Bank, and IMF] that have by and large, created the longest and most prosperous period of sustained peace in modern human history.” Read more »

Mireya Solis: “Brexit is not the final indictment of globalization, and our futures are not yet destined to be ruled by the politics of grievance.” Read more »

Aaron Klein and Tom Wright, with Fred Dews, on Facebook Live »

Philippe Le Corre: “Now, the shots will be called from Berlin, Paris and Brussels. Ironically for such a proponent of free trade and free markets, London will no longer have a voice. Between the U.S. and the ‘new U.K.,’ everything will need to be reinvented.” Read more »

Constanze Stelzenmüller: “… Britain has severed its ties with the E.U. for a delusion of sovereignty and control. For the average German — we share borders with 10 other countries, and our prosperity rests on world trade — this is just bizarre.” Read more »

David Wessel: “It might be an inflection point in globalization and the institutions that have served us—by my view—pretty well since the end of World War II and particularly since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Listen on NPR »

Thomas Wright: “Hard as it is, the EU should adopt a generous approach and try to make Brexit as smooth as possible, which includes ensuring good relations with Britain after it leaves, even if it takes considerably longer than two years.” Read more »

Fiona Hill: “Like the fall of the [Berlin] wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fallout from Brexit could have momentous consequences. The U.K. is of course not the USSR, but there are historic links between Britain and Russia and structural parallels that are worth bearing in mind as the U.K. and the EU work out their divorce, and British leaders figure out what to do next, domestically and internationally.” Read more »

Elaine Kamarck: “The Brexit vote was a severe jolt to Britain, to the European Union and perhaps to the global economy. However, it is wise to take a deep breath before concluding, as Donald Trump was from his golf course, that it means a Trump victory in November.” Read more »

Homi Kharas: “If Brexit is an isolated event it can be contained. If it is the start of a more pronounced backlash against globalization, we should all worry, most of all those of us who are concerned with the lives of the poorest people on our planet.” Read more » 

Josh Meltzer: “The animating idea behind the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (EU) was been based on the premise that the U.K. will be better off, that it will have more freedom to act when not constrained by its membership in the EU. This is a myth that at its heart failed to understand the nature of sovereignty in a globalized world.” Read more »

Greg Clark: “London’s position as global city will not necessarily be substantially threatened by the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, but it will require some very important adjustments and confident negotiations, starting right now.” Read more »

Bruce Jones: “… a dramatic day in Britain, a momentous day in Europe and, one fears, a portent in the broader debate about the West’s relationship to a globalized and open world.” Read more » 

Constanze Stelzenmüller: “I know my friends are dismayed … everybody here [in Berlin] wanted Great Britain to stay. For us, Britain has always been a force for good in Europe, an important beacon for liberal trade policies, defense policies, an ancient democracy, and I think people here are just devastated.” Listen on NPR »

Richard Reeves: “Immigration played a role in the Brexit campaign, though it seems that voters may not have made a clear distinction between EU and non-EU inward movement. Still, Thursday’s vote was, at heart, a plebiscite on what it means to British.” Read more » 

David Wessel: “The onus is now on those elites, on the leaders of U.S. companies, on academic and think-tank scholars, on internationally aware politicians (including, especially, Hillary Clinton)—all those who fear that Brexit portends a turning point in the post-World War II and post-Berlin Wall world order—to come up with something more than a modest expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance. If ever there were a time for bold proposals, it’s now.”  Read more »

Kemal Kirişci: “Let us hope for the time being that the ‘politics of fear’ that brought about the Brexit result does not spin out of control, and make Europe (foremost Britain) regret its decision to reject the wisdom of Schuman, Adenauer, and Monnet—and all the others who’ve chosen to walk in their path.” Read more »

Bill Galston: “In the short to medium term, this is bad news for both Britain and Europe. And it is bad news for the United States as well.”  Read more »

Justin Wolfers: “In response to the British vote to leave the European Union, the American stock markets have moved more than they have in response to any presidential election over the past 60 years.”  Read more »

“It does appear we are at a tipping point in terms of the future of our politics. … Does it continue to be a politics that is generally outwardly focused, focused on an open global economy and opportunity and optimism? Or is it one that is nationalistic and more inward looking and more about closing countries off?” 
— Senior Fellow Thomas Wright on “All Things Considered,” 6/22/2016

Here are the latest tweets from our experts:

Turkey: Boogeyman for Brexit

Kemal Kirişci, the TÜSİAD Senior Fellow and director of the Turkey Project, and Sinan Ekim observe that the “Leave” campaign has used Turkey as its “boogeyman.” Turkey has long been seeking EU membership even as it contends with economic and democratic setbacks, and yet, as Kirişci and Ekim point out, “stoking fear of Turkey-the-boogeyman is a longstanding pastime in Europe, stretching back centuries.” Because of this, they say, no matter the result of the vote, “there has already been much damage inflicted on the West’s liberal image.” 

» Read more: “Brexit, the politics of fear, and Turkey the boogeyman


“Terrible for U.S. interests in Europe”

Philippe Le Corre, a visiting fellow in Brookings’s Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE), talks with Miodrag Soric of Deutsche Welle (DW) about how Brexit could affect the United States.


Financial market turmoil

David Wessel, senior fellow and director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, talks to NPR’s David Greene about how the vote’s outcome could affect the U.S. economy:


“Things could start spinning out of control …”

Aaron Klein, a fellow in Economic Studies and policy director for the Initiative on Business and Public Policy, debated AEI’s Kevin Hassett on CNBC this morning.


Resist the siren call of “splendid isolation”

Arturo Sarukhan, a nonresident senior fellow, warns that a vote to leave the EU would make Britain “dangerously isolated.” Sarukhan argues that Brexit would put trans-Atlantic trade negotiations “on the ropes,” would negatively affect Britain’s security and counter-terrorism roles, and “would likely set off another pro-independence, pro-European wave in Scotland, thus fragmenting the kingdom further and continuing to exacerbate EU vulnerability.” 

» Read more: “To British voters: Don’t score an own goal.”


Is Brexit good for America?

Aaron Klein and DJ Nordquist, chief of staff and director of communications for Economic Studies, write that the “UK leaving the European Union would mean substantial upheaval for global markets, financial firms, and businesses that would likely leave London.” Although in the short-run “it is possible that some sectors in the U.S. would gain” from exit, including finance, they write, “if Britain leaves, it raises the chances of another crisis in Europe which could spread to our shores.” 

» Read more: “Is Brexit good for America? Nope.


Implications for Africa

“Perhaps the biggest impact of the Brexit on Africa,” write Mariama Sow and Amadou Sy, “would be the end of British ‘outwardness’—the country’s concern with and responsiveness to global development issues.” Sy, senior fellow and director of the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings (AGI), and Sow, a research assistant with AGI, also call attention to the “dire consequences for development assistance,” and a “decrease in trade volumes between the UK and Africa.” 

» Read more: “The Brexit: What implications for Africa?


A threat to the “special relationship”

Brookings President Strobe Talbott calls the vote’s result “of major import to the United States,” writing that “Brexit could be the worst news yet for the trans-Atlantic community, particularly for Britain and the United States, and very bad news for the entire world.” 

» Read more: “Brexit’s threat to ‘the Special Relationship’.”


China’s worries

Philippe Le Corre, author of “China’s Offensive in Europe” (Brookings, 2016), notes that “Chinese investors are getting nervous” about the possibility that Britain could exit the EU. Explaining that China sees Britain as “a bridge to the European market,” Le Corre writes that the “emphasis that [British PM David] Cameron and [Chinese President Xi Jinping] put last year on the new Sino-British ‘special relationship’ could backfire for both leaders if British voters decide to leave the EU, tarnishing the partnership.” 

» Read more: “Could Brexit bring the end of the new Sino-British ‘special relationship’?


Implications for the rest of Europe

Javier Solana, a distinguished fellow at Brookings and former EU high representative for foreign and security policy, writes that no matter the outcome of the vote, “debates and negotiations involving the UK and its European partners will continue to feature deep disagreements over the restrictions and conditions that accompany membership in the EU.” 

» Read more: “Brexit’s questions for Europe.”


A panel discussion featuring Brexit pro and con

On May 6, CUSE, in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative based at King’s College London, and Wilton Park USA, hosted a discussion on the range of implications that could result from the UK’s choice. 

» Get audio and the transcript here plus read what two British leaders had to say for and against.

CUSE also held events on Brexit in 2014 and 2015.


Here’s more expert commentary from Twitter: