Brexiteers Without a Plan, Republican Big Spenders and Competitor to NATO

Businesses demand clarity on Brexit, Republicans explode the deficit and Americans fear competition to NATO.

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Politico reports that American businesses are unconvinced by Theresa May’s post-Brexit vision. She has promised to turn the island into a “beacon for technology and innovation,” but a lack of detail about what kind of country the United Kingdom wants to be once it leaves the EU is hurting her case.

Janan Ganesh calls on Brexiteers to provide such detail:

Voters are being urged to brave a hard exit that would tug at the seams of the kingdom, disrupt the economic life of the Irish republic and risk some material cost to themselves. The least they should expect in return is an impressionistic picture of Britain’s post-EU economic model from the people who are keenest on the idea. Instead, they have to make do with generalities about sovereignty.

There are two possible explanations:

  1. Twenty months after winning the referendum, Brexiteers still have not through through the consequences of leaving the EU.
  2. They fear the popular reaction to proposals for dramatic liberalization.

Britain is already one of the most lightly-regulated, low-taxed economies in Europe. A post-Brexit backlash to attempts to transform it into Singapore-on-Thames might put the Labour Party back in power.

A new centrist party in Europe?

Politico reports some Italian socialists worry their leader, Matteo Renzi, might team up with French president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party and Spain’s liberal Ciudadanos after the European elections in 2019.

With 29 out of 190 members, Renzi’s Democratic Party is one of the largest in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Macron and the Ciudadanos currently side with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, but this group includes right-wing and mildly Euroskeptic liberal parties as well.

2019 is still a long way off, though. Let’s first see how Renzi does in Italy’s own election next month.

Big spenders

More evidence that America’s Republicans no longer (or never did) care about fiscal conservatism comes in the form of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, released on Monday.

Politico reports:

Even if Trump were to get all the spending cuts he wants, plus his ambitious 3 percent growth, deficits over the next decade would total $7.1 trillion.

And that doesn’t even factor in the spending increases Democrats and Republicans voted into law last week.

The budget calls for deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending: everything from after-school care to housing subsidies. But this is only a sliver of the budget. Last year, defense, entitlements, health care and interest on the debt made up 86 percent of federal spending. Yet — despite years of calling for entitlement reform under Barack Obama — Republicans are now only interested in cutting, or wholly eliminating, the many small programs that help millions of Americans in substantial ways.

America needn’t fear EU defense union

The United States worry that defense union in Europe will come at the expense of NATO, the Financial Times reports.

“We don’t want to see EU efforts pulling requirements or forces away… from NATO and into the EU,” said Katie Wheelbarger, a senior Pentagon official.

This is a little rich coming after President Trump hectored his allies and after years during which the Americans urged Europe to spend more on its own defense.

It’s also unreasonable. As I’ve argued here, closer defense cooperation in the EU would augment, not weaken, NATO and signal to Moscow European, in the absence of American, resolve.

Also read Erik Brattberg’s column on this topic in The American Interest.