After a dramatic period of four years and six months and a trade deal with the European Union, Britain has won back its independence – a fundamental right for every sovereign state which is now viewed as an anachronism, since nationalism – and patriotism even – are treated as evil.
The champions of Brexit hail the process as a redemptive escape from the shackles of the EU. Europeanists on the other hand have treated Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc with hostility, mostly because they fear it could turn out to be a success. The certain thing is that something has finally happened, that could shake the unhealthy complacency of the European system.
The British acted according to their nature – which is largely incomprehensible to and loathed by the leaders of the Continent. The British suffer from the syndrome of “Splendid Isolation,” the critics of the United Kingdom will say. Others will sarcastically say that the British hope to revive their imperial past.
The truth is that Britain never really isolated itself from Europe; but it never tried to conquer any European nations either. Any military engagement aimed at preventing the rise of a major hegemonic power in the Continent.
Britain is indeed no longer that great country that never saw the sun set on its imperial conquests. But the adventurous spirit is still here, and so is the combative disposition. The country was suffocating within the European framework. “Europe’s domain extends to the shores of the Atlantic, England’s begins there,” British Prime Minister George Canning said two centuries ago, and this may well be true today.
Leaving the EU of course implies risk and the success of the venture will decide whether the UK will remain a united state. What cannot be questioned is that the catatonic mood will be succeeded by a more extrovert attitude. It is exactly what the EU lacks today.
Today, EU leaders seem eager to dismantle the foundations of the nation-state, in an attempt to join the current of globalization. It is interesting that a country is choosing to take the same path but by relying on its longstanding traditions.
Let us not be misunderstood here: Britain is not an example to be imitated. Writing to Czar Alexander, Klemens von Metternich said that seeking to adopt Britain’s traditions and institutions would only bring maladies and perils.
And this remains true to this day.