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Future U.S. Trade Depends On Brexit

Brexit: U.S. trade ties with Britain are being held hostage by the U.K.’s protracted departure from the European Union. Better to make the exit quick and definitive than long and drawn out.

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It’s been fun, as usual, to watch President Trump on an international stage as he stirs things up. In an exclusive interview with the British Sun, he criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for a “soft Brexit,” with continued close ties to the EU. And he suggested that her conservative foe, Boris Johnson, would make a great prime minister.

But a day later, it had all blown over. Trump and May emerged holding hands for a Friday news conference, where each lavished praise on the other’s leadership. The president even called May a “tough negotiator” — which, in the Trumpian world, is the highest form of praise. Trump also reaffirmed the “special relationship” that has bonded the U.S. and Britain since the late 19th century.

Even so, Trump’s remarks to The Sun highlighted the fact that Britain is stuck in a bitter fight, mostly among conservatives, for how it should leave the EU. Should Britain merely loosen ties a bit and continue hewing to many of its trade rules (“soft Brexit”), or completely walk away and re-establish its economic sovereignty outside of the 28-nation EU (“hard Brexit”).

Great political theater, sure. And most Americans wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to Britain leaving the European Union. But they shouldn’t.

Brexit, as Britain’s exit from the EU is called, is of the utmost importance. And how it’s done really matters. Trump has said he’s not in favor of the “soft” option, which would still leave Britain subject to many if not most of the EU’s inane trade rules.

Brexit, Hard Or Soft?

As Trump told The Sun, “If they do a deal like that (a soft Brexit), we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.”

With more than $480 billion invested in the U.S., Britain is our No. 1 investor here. And the U.S., with over $600 billion in place in Britain, is the largest investor there. They are our fourth largest export market and our seventh-largest trading partner overall. So, yes, it matters.

Once again, Trump stirred things up, but in doing so revealed a political truth: That Britain’s May and her party should have embraced the hard Brexit that Britons voted for two years ago and escaped the EU’s toxic economic embrace. All the dire predictions of doom have failed to materialize.

Instead, May could face a vote of no confidence in Parliament and leave a tarnished legacy of diminished trade and influence on both sides of the Atlantic, with the U.S. more distant than ever. Trump’s blunt talk was meant as a wake-up call for May. Hopefully, she heard it.

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