What’s also interesting in Brexit is that majority of the older population showed up at the polls to vote Leave. If you think about it, this segment of UK citizens are the ones who’ve gone through momentous periods in British history, survived the transitions, and thrived. Hence for them, I guess, there’s this clear and strong reference point at the back of their minds- the UK before it’s EU membership and after and the added value this membership has had or not in their lives and communities.
To understand this mindset, one needs to know that, apart from Britain’s colorful past with European powers such as France,
Britain has given us such landmarks of accountable government as the Magna Carta and foundational thinkers on the road to democratic rule as John Locke, Algernon Sidney and John Milton. It resisted centralizing monarchs in the turbulence of the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution and defeated continental threats to its sovereignty emanating from Spain (King Phillip II), France (Napoleon) and Germany (Hitler).
Not to mention the Scottish Adam Smith who laid down the foundation for capitalism. In other words, Britain has always been the leader in the Continent. To be subjugated (for want of a better word) under the empire that is EU has perhaps taken away or corroded that leadership. And the irony of it, for the once-colonizer.
For the older population, they feel this part of British history more acutely having been part of that time. For those residing deep in the countryside, the relatively yet untouched English landscape is an inescapable reminder of British glory and perhaps dreams of poetic possibilities for the country, this time with their participation.
The Brexit vote coincides with a rising nationalism in the rest of the Europe and here in the United States, exemplified by Donald Trump. There is chaff among the wheat, but the instinct to defend the nation-state — as the best vehicle for democratic accountability and for the protection of its citizens — is necessary and sound.
To have a democracy, it requires a demos, or a people who feel attached to one another. Since we are beyond the era of the city-state, when all free citizens could gather on a hillside and vote on important questions, the nation-state is the best way to delineate a people sharing bonds of language, history, culture and institutions.
If what Shakespeare deemed this fortress built by Nature for herself, this precious stone set in a silver sea, is content to live with the surrender of a large share of its sovereignty to EU technocrats, it will be a blow to self-government in its ancestral home.
On a positive note, the Leave vote implies a resurgent trust and faith of the people in their Government and leaders to direct and bring the UK into that envisioned place of relevance.
For the rest of the world, Brexit provides a wealth of lessons in nation building and regional integration. Philippines in ASEAN for example. Similar concern regarding added value of membership in this bloc has cropped up in it’s dispute with China over the South China Sea / West Philippine Sea. Just when the Philippines needed it’s ASEAN counterparts on it’s side was their support withheld. We personally know how it is to be abandoned in the midst of a crisis by those we consider family and friends. With ASEAN, on the matter of the sea, silence from member-friends elicits the same feeling and question: when my club doesn’t stand by me when I am well within my rights (as opposed to a non-member), why should I continue membership in this club?
For me, in sum, Brexit is like a journey one makes toward home in which nation is home- with the understanding that home connotes different things to different people.
Some people, as they move through their lives, rediscover home again and again. Some people never find another after once leaving home. And, of course, some people never leave the one home they’ve always known.
The Definition of Home, smithsonianmag
Whatever it’s meaning, home is essentially where one has built significant memories hence deep and strong attachments with the other; where one deeply cares for the other; where one takes extra care not to trump the other. Apparently, as implied in Brexit
The 28-nation EU doesn’t have those bonds. It is too big and too sprawling for true accountability. No one in Poland cares how Finland is governed, and vice versa. Forging a Europe-wide government has always been an elite project that necessarily operates outside democratic channels, accruing more authority, mostly out of sight (with an occasional national referendum on treaties, always revoted if it goes the wrong way).
Then again, home is constantly being defined and rebuilt.
Source of quoted statements (italics): Brexit and the Case for Modern Nationalism, Rich Lowry, POLITICO Magazine