Miguel Otero-Iglesias writes: In the wake of the Leave campaign’s shocking win in the U.K.’s In/Out referendum, commentators have painstakingly defended Britain’s rampant Euroskepticism as part of a larger trend.
They point to the wave of discontent sweeping through the Union, from Sweden and Denmark in the north, to France, the Netherlands and Austria in the center, and Italy in the south. Influential pro-European pundits have now joined starkly anti-EU politicians such as Nigel Farage in arguing the EU’s disintegration is now irreversible. Today’s dominant view, it seems, is that most Europeans do not want to be ruled by Brussels.
This pessimistic diagnosis is inaccurate. Europeans are angry about how the EU has handled the asymmetric effects of globalization, but the majority do not believe that leaving the Union is the answer. The fact is that Britain — or more concretely, England — is an outlier in the EU in that respect.
The English, especially those forming “Little England,” have always been uncomfortable in the EU. The eurozone crisis only reinforced this feeling. English exceptionalism has many sources: Westminster’s democratic tradition; its imperial past; and its special relationship with the U.S.
English is the world’s lingua franca, and the City of London its most prominent global financial center. Britain is extremely proud of its seat in the U.N. Security Council and its nuclear weapons. All this makes a large majority of English believe they are primus inter pares in the EU club.
This sentiment is exceptional. Of course, other European nations are proud too, and believe they are better than their neighbors to some degree. The Dutch have always punched above their weight in international affairs. The Nordic countries are right to brag about their welfare systems, the Mediterraneans about their lifestyle and their food, and the Central and East Europeans about their work ethic and resistance to Soviet rule. And what can one say about the boundless pride of the French? It certainly shares many of the features of English hubris.
Nonetheless, these countries have neither the capacity nor the desire to go it alone. [Continue reading…]