Data shows that white, poor, elderly, uneducated men from rural England pulled the United Kingdom outside the European Union. Great Britain will be on its own as it will have to navigate an increasingly complex and globalized world. Europeans must wish all the very best to their British friends. At the same time, they must explore what opportunities are there to be seized. Britain’s departure presents Europeans with many exciting political prospects.
Unlike England, Scotland voted massively in favor of remaining within the European Union. Scots now risk being dragged out of it at the hands of the English. Because of this, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear: The possibility of a new referendum for Scottish independence is on the table. Should Scotland break free of England, it would immediately be welcome back into the European Union as a sovereign and independent country. Scots would have the best of both worlds: free of English dictates and welcome in the common European family. Their economic liberalism and progressive social policies meanwhile being a boon to the rest of Europe.
Although far less likely than those of a Scottish scenario, major changes could be afoot in Ireland as well. Ireland is presented with a fantastic opportunity to solidify its position as an outpost of Anglo-Saxon economic dynamism within the European Union. A global language, a flexible labour market and low corporate taxation (as well as great beer) are the ingredients the Irish bring to Europe. In the coming years, they could leapfrog what will be left of Britain as America’s springboard into Europe. Meanwhile, Dublin has a fantastic opportunity to punch above its weight in international affairs (as it could and should) by acting as an honest broker between Brussels and London.
Calls for the establishment of a common European military, of shared European representation in international institutions, and of a truly European diplomatic service have for the last 40 years regularly and to varying degrees been frustrated by the United Kingdom. Now that Britain is out, Berlin, Paris, and all other like-minded member states should seize this historical opportunity in order to tremendously boost their cooperation in all these policy areas. By doing so, Europe could achieve economies of scale, save money and resources on possible duplications, boost its global standing, and become the strong and reliable partner that the United States desperately wants it to be.
The welfare state, public services, and healthcare that most continental and northern Europeans enjoy have long been far superior to anything most Brits can even dream of. Additionally, Germany and most northern European member states boost far more competitive economies and standards of living than the United Kingdom. The historical challenge for Europeans is now to improve the performance of the southern and eastern member states of the European Union. Free from British fears of Brussels’ red tape and with the crucial contribution of small yet economically dynamic countries such as the Netherlands or Sweden, Europeans should further integrate toward a dynamic yet inclusive social-market economic model.
Westminster gave parliamentary democracy to the rest of the world. After having made a joke out of it through a referendum marred by enormous lies regurgitated onto an ill-informed population, Britain might have given a new impetus to democratic ideals across Europe. Two elements conspire positively in this respect. On the one hand, the country that historically more than any other opposed reforms aimed at further democratizing the European Union is out of the way: Britain will no more be able to veto reforms in this direction. On the other hand, both European elites and common citizens alike might now be spurred into further democratizing the EU as a means to rescuing it.
A rather homogenous socio-demographic group of white, poor, uneducated, elderly, and rural Englishmen have pulled the rest of Britain outside the European Union. The United Kingdom might now enter a new phase in its history characterized by a further deterioration of its international standing. Europeans, meanwhile, have to catch up on the time they spent dealing with 40 years of British foot-dragging. Great opportunities are out there to be seized.