In a nail-biting referendum yesterday evening, the United Kingdom has voted 51.9 to 48.1 percent to leave the European Union. Since the vote, markets and currencies worldwide have seen a downward slide, Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he will resign in October, and there have been calls from France and the Netherlands to have similar referendums.
What does this mean for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?
In the weeks leading up to the vote, military and security experts weighed in and pushed for a “Remain” vote. Five ex-NATO Secretary-Generals wrote in that a “Leave” vote would “give succour to the west’s enemies,” citing the UK’s current lead role in enforcing EU sanctions in Russia and Iran. US Lieutenant-General Frederick “Ben” Hodges stated that a “Leave” vote would threaten NATO stance against “Russian expansionism.” In an interview with the BBC, he stated:
“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 unravelled, there can't help but be a knock-on effect for the alliance also."
The Brexit implications on NATO will primarily be relating to the interactions economics have with security, as well as dealings with sanctions.
“The EU is hugely important to the response of Russian expansionism in Europe. A strong EU is very helpful to combat this with economic sanctions, as it’s an overwhelming economic power in coordinating sanctions policy,” said Dr. Stephen Biddle, a professor at the George Washington University and an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy at The Council on Foreign Relations, in an interview with Conflict News. “Secondly, economic contraction would be bad for national security, due to the fact that there would be less money to spend on military force.”
“A strong, united and determined NATO remains an essential pillar of stability in a turbulent world, and a key contributor to international peace and security,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “At the Warsaw Summit in July, we will step up our cooperation, because together we are more effective in upholding our common values and keeping our nations safe.”
The immediate aftermath of the Brexit will not be seen on the security front. The implications of Britain's exit from the European Union on NATO will reveal itself in the coming months, once negotiations begin between the EU and the UK.
“Very little is going to happen immediately. The changes of the Brexit will require negotiations, which will unfold between now and this fall,” said Dr. Biddle. “The negotiations will give time to sort out the UK’s role in the sanction programs. My guess is there will be a series of arrangements that will continue on a bilateral basis, even even after the UK officially leaves the EU.”
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