The UK’s relationship with the European Union (EU) has been described as a marriage of convenience based on a cost-benefit analysis. On June 23, 2016, British voters decided to leave the EU in a Brexit referendum. With a 72% turn out among registered voters albeit only 37% of eligible voters, the vote was 51.9% for “leave the EU” to 48.1% “remain.” Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron, who had made an impassioned appeal to remain, resigned the next day, and it soon became apparent that very little “what if” analysis had been undertaken to deal with the voters’ choice.
PM Theresa May assumed office on July 13, 2016 and in December the UK House of Commons (UKHC) voted to trigger by the end of March 2017 Article 50 —the two year timetable in the EU Treaty that sets out how a member state can leave the Union. Under PM May’s leadership, on three different occasions the UKHC defeated the Withdrawal Agreement she had negotiated with the EU, and the EU had granted two extensions to the Article 50 period with the latest set to end October 31, 2019. PM May resigned effective June 7, 2019, and in July, Boris Johnson became PM. The slim margin of victory on the Brexit referendum together with divisions within each major political party has contributed to a Brexit paralyses.
The stickiest point in the Brexit deliberations has been the Irish backstop, an arrangement to keep the border between the EU member state Ireland and the UK province of Northern Ireland open with no checks or barriers. Currently, as both are members of the EU, they fall under the same “single market” customs and regulatory requirements but that will end with Brexit. The special arrangements and technology to make checkpoints unnecessary may take years. In the meantime, the UK will have to remain bound by EU rules on customs and other standards. The question is: Can the EU agree to a deal that the UKHC can approve? A no deal Brexit is unacceptable to the UKHC, which suggests the one thing left is a second referendum.
Irrespective of the final outcome, however, our speaker this evening will argue that Britain’s stature as a world power has been severely damaged by the process. We are very pleased to welcome back, Thomas Wright, as our November speaker for the joint CCFR – Fulbright Association dinner. Wright is vice-chair and a board member of Ireland’s Fulbright Commission and spoke to CCFR three years ago on Brexit. Having grown up in Ireland and with degrees from universities both in the UK and Ireland, he brings an academic and a personal perspective on the future of the UK.
At Brookings, in addition to serving as Director of the Center on the U.S. and Europe, Wright is a Senior Fellow in the Project on International Order and Strategy. He is also a nonresident fellow at the Lowry Institute for International Policy. Previously, he was executive director of studies at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Wright works on U.S. foreign policy and grand strategy, President Trump’s worldview, the future of Europe, and Asian security. His book, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the 21st Century and the Future of American Power was published by Yale University Press in May 2017. Wright’s writings have appeared in American Political Science Review, Orbis, Survival, and the Washington Post, as well as a number of international newspapers and media outlets.
Thomas Wright earned a PhD from Georgetown University, a Master of Philosophy from Cambridge University, and BA and MA from University College Dublin. He also held a pre-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton University.
6:00 Cocktails 6:45 Dinner 7:45 Address and Discussion
Save the Date: December 12, 2019
Ambassador Rose Gottemoeller, NATO Deputy Sec. (retired), “NATO and Russia ”