STOCKHOLM – The world is fundamentally different after the “Brexit” referendum in the United Kingdom. It will be decades before we know the full effect of British voters’ decision to leave the European Union.
One thing we can know for sure, however, is that it is in the EU’s best interest to maintain strong ties with the UK, despite the fact that British voters made their decision unilaterally. Too much is at stake to allow the process to be dominated by petty power games that overshadow or undermine common interests, as happens so often in European politics.
Economically, growth in the EU will undoubtedly benefit from an open trading relationship with Britain. A free-trade agreement that includes financial services will minimize the damage from Brexit for all parties involved, because European firms will still rely on London as the region’s only global financial center. Even if banking services migrate elsewhere in the eurozone, companies like Volvo, Siemens, and Total will still need London if they are to compete with companies like Toyota, GE, and Exxon.
Politically, the EU and the UK will benefit from maintaining close cooperation because neither side is spared from the problems afflicting the region today. These include increasing aggression from Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin; the rise of ISIS and the threat of homegrown terrorism; and refugees fleeing to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. Moreover, the Brexit vote does not change the strategic importance of NATO, where continued cooperation is necessary and where the EU needs the UK as much as the UK needs the EU.