A political counter-revolution against the European Union is underway. Brexit is likely to be seen in hindsight as just the first of many tremors leading up to a larger political earthquake that will be felt all over the European continent.
Brexit could prove very dangerous for the UK. There has been a short term shock: the British economy is on the way into a recession, the pound is in free fall, banks are starting to relocate, and British politics has become a game of musical chairs as one political leader after the other exits the stage. Racism has reared its ugly head: the British police confirmed a 57 percent increase in hate crime in the week after the referendum. But the longer term outlook signals a much more fundamental change – a shrinking economic and political voice in the world.
As much as some elements of the British EU referendum campaign were idiosyncratic to the UK, Brexit was not a peculiar piece of Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism. Rather, it is a symptom and an accelerator of wider trends that are increasingly affecting all member states.
The referendum result shocked the British elite. Notwithstanding the high turnout of 72 percent – which in the run-up to the referendum had been considered a favourable portent of a “Remain” win – a majority voted to leave the European Union. The autopsy of the result concluded that Brexit was caused by a toxic mix of economic uncertainty, cultural anxiety, and political alienation among the population. This is true, but underlying it is a bigger challenge – that the EU no longer has a clear story what it is for.
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