It was not supposed to be this way. The European Union was not supposed to trigger national resentment towards European institutions. Instead, it was supposed to grow by stealth. It was expected that the nations of Europe would gradually get used to cooperating at the European level and that this would make “going it alone” seem … well … silly.
It has not quite worked out that way. Britain has now sent its Article 50 letter starting the process by which it will withdraw from the EU. The letter says that it is meant to restore “self-determination” – — that is, going it alone. Britain wants Europe to succeed, but not as part of it.ll
It no longer matters whether one thinks that the Brexit vote was foolish. It is now reality. BTW, part of that reality is that NATO is now more important than ever — talk of an EU defense force independent of NATO without the Brits is foolish. Another part of that reality will be ongoing negotiations between Britain and the EU over trade. Will Britain find itself as a total outsider like the US? Or will there be mutual interests served by keeping closer ties? And what about European law? Presumably, Britain will remain committed to the Council of Europe and the European Convention of Human Rights. But what about EU law? Does it fade to obscurity in Britain after having had binding effect for many years?
Hold on to your hats! The tide of history has shifted.