Britons will go to the polls this week to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should continue to be part of the European Union (EU). At stake is about 13 percent of the EU’s consumers and close to 15 percent of its economic output. The outcome could threaten the long-term stability of the EU and it could represent a “crushing economic blow” for Britain. In the current state of dependency of the global economy it is clear that the outcome of the vote will have ramifications that will impact the United States’ economy. The impact would be felt by Maine’s local economy as well. The state is more dependent on the EU market then on the United Kingdom, therefore from an economic perspective it is in our best interest that the breakup does not take place. An analysis of Maine’s international trade reveals that our dependency on the EU market is much less significant then our increasing dependency on the Canadian market but we do not talk much about this. A ‘Canexit’ would be more concerning for us then a ‘Brexit’ but our connection to Europe and our motherland elevates its relevance.
Maine’s share of U.S. exports in 2015 was only 0.2 percent of total exports to the global market system. The $2.7 billion that Maine businesses exported to the world were mostly in the areas of lobster, civilian aircraft, engines and parts, electronic integrated circuits, coniferous wood and chemical wood pulp. A total of 47 percent of these exports went to Canada and only 14 percent went to EU member nations. Only 2 percent of those EU exports went to the United Kingdom, splitting the rest between Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Ireland, and Finland.
Quantitative data indicates that in the case of ‘Brexit’, it is favorable for Maine’s economy that the British vote favors staying in the EU. The same analysis may be done for the other forty-nine states that make our Union, explaining why President Obama lobbied recently in favor of Britain’s commitment to the EU. A breakup from that trade block would not favor the interests of Maine’s economy.
Maine’s imports also revealed interesting facts. The state imported from the global market a total of $3.6 billion, about a million more than what it exported, signaling the fact that the state carries a trade deficit. Top imports included oil and petroleum, electrical energy, lobsters and footwear. A total of 53 percent of imports came from Canada and another 13 percent came from China. The EU’s share of total imports was close to 14 percent and only 3 percent of those imports came directly from the United Kingdom, splitting the rest between Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and France.
A ‘Brexit’ would have a tremendous psychological impact on global investors and it would hamper the credibility of the EU construct but eventually the global trading blocks would readjust and take new shapes, considering that the future destiny of the global economy is in the expansion of new trading partnerships. The long-term goal of our current government is to secure the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on behalf of the U.S. private sector. The proposed trade agreement between the EU and the US, the TTIP, is envisioned as the companion to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the new Pacific trading block currently under negotiation. A ‘Brexit’ would just force the US to sign a separate trade agreement with the United Kingdom that paralleled the TTIP. According the British Left, this would be the best outcome because it would provide greater autonomy in the design of future trade deals and decrease the dependency on EU regulations.
At the end, the restructuring of the trade block in Europe is insignificant when compared to the broader picture. The EU is well aware of this and predicts that in the “next ten to fifteen years, 90 percent of world demand will be generated outside Europe.” The ‘Brexit’ represents a temporary blow to the EU economy but it is not devastating as media tends to indicate. The EU sees the global markets of the world as crucial for Europe’s survival in a globalized economy and does not see the dependency on the United Kingdom as a critical issue. That is why the EU is more interested in signing bilateral trade agreements across the planet, including the TTIP. Beside the EU members, the trade block has already secured bilateral trade agreements with 10 other non-EU European nations, 9 Mediterranean nations, and with numerous other nations in Central America, South America, and Africa.
A state like Maine does not need to ponder over ‘Brexit’ and instead center on its increasing dependency on the Canadian economy. Our 2 percent share of total US trade makes us an insignificant player within the global market system, yet we feel its burden every day. We do not need to be relevant international players to see the impact that international trade has on our own local economy. Realizing that close to 50 percent of our international trade depends on Canada should force our policy makers and economic gurus to reevaluate this current dependency instead. We, as the EU, should worry more about diversifying our trade partnerships and relying more and more on our own local market. We should be looking at sustainable ways in which to survive the current and future pressures of globalization.
Protectionism seems an old fashion economic development strategy in this era of globalization but ask this to the Swedish government which recently asked the EU to ban imports of live US lobsters, arguing that the invasive species “could outcompete or spread disease to European lobsters.” Ask this to the Canadian canneries and its subsidized lobster industry that continue to put pressure on our local production of 125 million pounds. Lets not worry about ‘Brexit’ and instead pay more attention to our long-term strategy on how to set us for the TTIP, the TTP, and the other future challenges of globalization. At the end this is what ‘Brexit’ is all about, a nationalist revision of Globalization 2.0.
I want to thank Nina Mahaleris, undergraduate student at the University of Maine majoring in International Affairs and minoring in journalism, for her ideas and input on this blog.
 Ben Casselman. “What a ‘Brexit’ Could Mean for the Economy.” FiveThirtyEight. Accessed June 17, 2016. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-a-brexit-could-mean-for-the-economy/
 United States Census Bureau. “State Exports from Maine.” Foreign Trade. 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016. https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/state/data/me.html
 Paul Mason. “The leftwing case for Brexit.” The Guardian, May 16, 2016.
 European Commission. “Trade Agreements.” European Commission. 2016. Accessed June 17, 2016. http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/agreements/#_europe
 AP. “Some in the EU want to ban American Lobster.” U.S. News, June 10, 2016.
 This represented a total of 84 percent of total US production of lobsters; Ibid.