The results are in and the U.K. is out; the continent can rejoice!
It frees us of the Union’s most cantankerous member. To meet the challenges facing the continent, we will need more European unity, not less. Yet Britain has always been by far the most reluctant pan-European, traditionally resisting any move towards giving up even trivial sovereignty. It took a lot of cajoling to get them to join to begin with.
Of course, Brexitarians aren’t wrong – the EU is far from perfect. It’s a bureaucratic, unaccountable, aloof mess. The European Parliament, the only body actually elected, is generally mistaken for a retirement home for washed-up national politicians by member states, and waste is rife in Brussels – when it’s not outright corruption. For the project to thrive, deep changes will have to be made; in fact, the EU would best make way for something more effective and accountable that citizens feel invested in – Just as the ECSC, EEC and EC before it. Without the constant stonewalling of our exceptionalist friends across the channel vetoing, cherry picking and acting as a poor example for other members, this may finally become possible.
The victorious “leave” camp posited that there will be little to no ill effects of an exit; they may even be right. I posit that the same applies to the continent they’re turning their back on. The UK never joined the common currency or Schengen treaty (which didn’t stop them from frequent backseat driving on those issues), so for regular European citizens, little will change. And when the realty bubble pops as international financiers leave the sinking ship like (proverbial) rats to Frankfurt, regular folks, along with the artists and thinkers that made London one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, will finally be able to afford living in their own city again. Swingin’ London by 2020! Unlikely? No more than Boris Johnson’s visions.
It should come as no surprise, really. How can you expect a nation to unite into a supernational community that is so divided? In the sporting world at least, British Balkanization took place years ago; at this year’s UEFA EURO, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are all still in the running. Maybe in two years time, the Isle of Man will field a side for the World Cup.
Scotland is now turning towards a second referendum, and David Cameron seems to have achieved what a century of IRA agitation could not: serious talk of an undivided Ireland. “United” Kingdom indeed.
All in all, the Brexit referendum is an excellent example of democracy – the right to horrible decisions – in action.