International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde was interviewed on Tuesday for an event at the Library of Congress and said that more and more Britons and Europeans exhibit “Brexit regrets.” The Q&A followed her speech at the historic site. According to Lagarde, more Britons would prefer to stay in the European Union rather than leave it behind. Regarding the 2016 referendum that put the United Kingdom on the path of exiting the European Union, Lagarde said, “It seems there are more British people who would rather stay in the European Union than leave.” Lagarde went on to say, “I think there are Brexit regrets in many corners of Europe. And I think there are more regrets in the United Kingdom now than there were six months ago.”
“There is now a realization that there will be more losses from Brexit than said and anticipated by Leave campaigners.”
Lagarde claimed that it is “legally” possible for the United Kingdom to unilaterally cancel the will of British voters to leave the EU because advocate general of the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday the UK could revoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which provides the mechanism for leaving the EU, without needing the permission of every other EU member state. When her interviewer asked whether this is viable, Lagarde replied: “At least it’s legal.”
Lagarde also spoke to the issue of international trade and said a “new multilateralism” is needed to ensure that “the economic benefits of globalization are shared by all and not just a few.” She also warned that countries which embrace protectionism will face a “dystopian” future that will be characterized by inequality and an agitated majority. Lagarde said that the world must evolve and seek intergovernmental cooperation and the reforming of tax collection.
In a rapidly changing global economy, Lagarde said that the world faces “a fundamental choice: stand still and watch the discord and discontent bubble over into conflict, or move forwards.”
Even while placing herself at odds with President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy on global trade, Lagarde praised American leadership in the world. Regarding the U.S.-led economic prosperity that followed World War II, she said, "We learned from the past, got creative, and changed for the better." To her listeners at the Library of Congress, Lagarde said, "None of this would have been possible without the United States. This country challenged the international economic order when it needed challenging. It forged compromise when compromise was necessary."
It was in the interest of the United States, Lagarde said, to play a leading role because "a stronger and more stable world paid dividends for the U.S."
"This success did not come at the expense of other nations," Lagarde said. "On the contrary. This country's collaborative leadership paved the way not only for decades of opportunity here in America, but also for growth that spread across the world."
Lagarde was found guilty in a French court in 2016 on criminal charges linked to the misuse of public funds when she served as France’s finance minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, she did not serve any jail time or pay a fine. She retained her position at the IMF.