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In Wake Of Brexit Vote, U.S. Loses Influence In The EU


The U.S. and Britain have shared a special relationship for a long time, and the White House often relies on the U.K. to help get European support on security, trade or foreign policy issues. President Obama recently spoke to NPR about the concerns that Britain's vote to leave the EU has raised.


BARACK OBAMA: There's been a little bit of hysteria post-Brexit-vote, as if somehow NATO's gone (laughter), and the transatlantic alliance is dissolving, and every country is rushing off to its own corner. And that's not what's happening.

SIEGEL: But NPR's Jackie Northam says Britain's role as a gateway to Europe will change, and the U.S. needs to find another best friend on the European continent.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: From the moment it became clear Britain would be leaving the European Union, the Obama administration has been effusive in emphasizing the partnership between the two nations. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to London to underscore what he called an unbreakable bond.


JOHN KERRY: And I want to make it clear that at this moment of challenge, the United States of America knows it could not ask for a better friend and ally than the United Kingdom.

NORTHAM: The upheaval of over Brexit comes at a critical juncture. The White House is trying to hammer out a multibillion-dollar transatlantic trade deal, and the U.S. is trying to keep a check on Russian aggression. Michelle Egan at the Wilson Center says some EU members are starting to wobble over sanctions they imposed on Russia because of its actions in Ukraine. Egan says the U.S. may now find it more difficult to keep the sanctions in place.

MICHELLE EGAN: The U.S. and the U.K. have been really, really resolute on sanctions towards Russia because of Ukraine. And now they may be sort of a less significant partner.

NORTHAM: The Brexit decision drives home the cold, hard fact that the U.K. is unlikely to have that kind of clout with the EU again. The U.S. now needs to look elsewhere in Europe.

MATTHIAS MATTHIJS: Germany has kind of emerged as a de facto leader.

NORTHAM: Matthias Matthijs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says the U.S. had already been gravitating toward Germany.

MATTHIJS: You had the euro crisis, where Germany was at the wheel. The crisis over Ukraine with Russia - German diplomacy was at the heart of this. And then the refugee crisis - the fallout of the Syria conflict - again, here you've seen Germany take the lead.

NORTHAM: The relationship between Washington and Berlin took a bit of a hit in 2013 when Germany discovered the U.S. had been eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel and several of her ministers. But Germany's ambassador to the U.S., Peter Wittig, says relations now are rock solid.

PETER WITTIG: We have extraordinarily close relations on a government-to-government level. There is very little daylight in all the major issues that we are facing. And it will certainly intensify as the management of that Brexit is unfolding.

NORTHAM: The U.K. may lose its special status as a bridge to the European Union, but Matthias Matthijs, the analyst at Johns Hopkins, says Britain will continue to be a leading partner for the U.S. when it comes to intelligence.

MATTHIJS: The intelligence cooperation between and MI6 the CIA's very close - internally, as well, between FBI and MI5. And these are links that have been established since World War II and are ongoing.

NORTHAM: Matthijs says Britain's departure from the EU may actually help strengthen NATO because the U.K. may want to show it's still very much part of the Western alliance. But the U.K. is expected to pay a hefty economic price because it's leaving the EU. And questions remain about how it'll be able to afford to beef up its military. Jackie Northam, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.