Brexit Britain from Abroad: UK is Still Seeking a New Role

Will London Fall?

To many people in the capital, the vote last year feels like a rejection not just of Europe but also of the values embodied by London, perhaps the world’s most vibrantly and exuberantly cosmopolitan city: values like openess, tolerance, internationalism and the sense that it is better to look outward than to gaze inward. Even as a sense of melancholy seemed to descend on St. Pancras when I walked around the other day, much of the rest of Britain was celebrating.

Sarah Lyall, The New York Times

Opportunities for a Nimble, Freer Britain

In the short term, Europeans have managed to get over the shock of Brexit with a stronger sense of unity. Over the medium term, the strains between the net savers in the North, led by Germany, and the net borrowers in the South, will show.

From Asia’s perspective, Brexit has opened up new policy options in terms of trade, investments and geopolitical initiatives. By leaving the EU, Britain must survive by dealing with her own fundamental problems of labour productivity and overall competitiveness. The City of London will surely suffer somewhat from the loss of the euro clearing business, as these shift back to either Frankfurt or Paris, but it will be decades before either city manages to get the legal, financial and commercial skills that exist in London.

Andrew Sheng, South China Morning Post

Still Seeking a Role

Brexit has been blamed mostly on British antipathy to immigration. But other EU nations struggle with immigration and, so far, none have followed Britain out the door. France might, if its National Front wins power, but it’s not certain. France was a founding member and, unlike Britain, feels a European vocation. Hungary and Greece might go and wouldn’t be missed, but the EU core seems unlikely to unravel.

Britain now has begun two years of negotiations to leave the EU. It wants special trading relations and other concessions. The Continentals, thoroughly fed up, may or may not agree.

But three things are certain. That “deep-seated hostility” persists. Britain remains an off-shore island. And it still hasn’t found a role.

Richard C Longworth, Chicago Sun Times

Britain’s Historical Amnesia

It was less than a century ago when the British Empire exerted its might over a fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the world’s total land. Advocates of Brexit have been repeatedly insinuating that that Britain could regain its former glory by charting an independent course of action. Supporters of Brexit are, of course, not the only ones who have glorified the former British empire. Colonial apologists have included Winston Churchill himself. Although David Cameron opposed Brexit, and he handed over the reins of power to Theresa May after he lost the Brexit referendum, he too had earlier asserted the British colonial empire was something to be proud of. During a trip to India, Cameron had asserted that it would be wrong to “reach back into history” and apologise for the wrongs of British colonialism.

It is no surprise that such glorifications of colonialism have also pervaded British public opinion. A YouGov found 44pc respondents were proud of Britain’s history of colonialism, while only 21pc regretted that it happened. These views are understandable since the British education system also does not focus much on colonial history.

However, across much of the developing world which was under Britain’s sway, the brutalities of colonialism are less easily forgotten. Its ‘divide and rule policies’ and entrenched exploitation have wreaked havoc across many other parts of the world.

Syed Mohammed Ali, The Express Tribune

Peace and Prosperity at Stake

The reason Europe exists in its present form is because its founders understood the politics-religion-economics nexus. They also knew a lot about history, where that nexus always leads unless a conscious detour is taken. Historically, Europe’s default destination is war, unless sensible people take a such a detour. As we head into the latest potential for disaster – also known as the French presidential elections – it is important to understand that if Brexit-type forces take hold on the Continent then we really are taking risks with peace, not just prosperity.

Proper commentators are drawing on history to reflect on Brexit. And not just Europe’s predilection for bloody violence as the best way to resolve disagreements. One (anonymous) blogger recently drew a brilliant parallel between Brexit and America’s flirtation with prohibition.

The drive to ban booze came initially from rural and small-town people who were growing uneasy about the switch from farming to industry and the growth of cities at the expense of the country. Immigrants were widely viewed by such people as threats to the American way of life. Social change – indeed, change of any kind – was feared by the prohibitionists. The banning of booze became a device to express reluctance to change: a cry to “stop the world, I want to get off”. Just like voting to leave the EU.

Chris Johns,The Irish Times


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