Brexit Is Not a Cause for Panic, Says Obama

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Speaking on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Tuesday, President Obama’s message on Brexit was simple: “Don’t panic.”

You can watch the relevant portion of the interview here:

When asked by Steve Inskeep whether European nations would now turn inward and begin a transition toward isolationism, Obama demurred.

“Well, I think that the best way to think about this is a pause button has been pressed on the project of full European integration,” he said. “I would not overstate it. There has been a little bit of hysteria, post Brexit vote, as if somehow NATO is gone and the transatlantic alliance is dissolving and every country is rushing off to its own corner. That’s not what’s happening.”

Instead, Obama explained Brexit as a reaction to the speed at which the European Union project was moving—often without consensus. By hitting the brakes, the U.K. is merely “taking a breath,” which he believes will lead to a necessary slowing down while countries figure out how to maintain national identities, assuage the frustration of voters, and still push toward integration.

“But the basic core values of Europe, the tenets of liberal market-based democracies, those aren’t changing,” he continued. “The interests that we have in common with Europe remain the same. And our concerns internationally are the same. So Europe can’t afford to turn inward—they’re going to have worry about working with us on the Middle East, they’re going to have to worry about us working together to deal with an aggressive Russia.”

For what it’s worth, he’s right to an extent—there are global problems that can’t be ignored, and which will require cooperation between western powers, regardless of the European Union’s survival. On the other hand, we have no idea what the Brexit after-effects will look alike, and as much as Obama wants to present a picture of calm to the world—as well he should—even he can’t make any guarantee about what comes next. A new balance may emerge, and with it the old stability. Or it might not, in which case a little hysteria is probably warranted.