The American Interest

England’s Independence Day

The Brexit referendum of June 23 was a momentous event, comparable in long-term implications to the fall of the Berlin Wall a generation ago.  It laid bare the yawning gap between the London-based political machine and the alienated and angry majority of “left-behind” citizens.  Thanks to outgoing prime minister David Cameron’s miscalculation, the masses seized the opportunity to express their abiding dislike not only of the European Union and all its works but of the postnational, metropolitan elite class that dominates the political process and media discourse in every major Western country.  The vote ultimately became a plebiscite on the entire political system.  The underfunded Leave campaign presented itself as “the people” battling “the establishment.”  It was, in essence, an accurate paradigm.

To put it succinctly, identity has triumphed over economics.  Brussels’ encouragement of rampant immigration from the E.U.’s poor eastern members was the key factor, even though the Remainers had tried to keep the issue outside the permissible terms of debate.  Britain will now face a profound political and constitutional crisis.  The ruling Conservatives will have to elect a new leader in October to replace Cameron, and the party is deeply divided over the candidacy of former London mayor Boris Johnson, who spearheaded the Brexit campaign. ...

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