The reactions to Britain voting to leave the European Union (i.e., Brexit) have been either apoplectic or triumphalistic. These reactions are totally partisan and ignore the nuances of Brexit. These reaction are little more than propaganda and simple thinking. In Liberal Democracy, every political event becomes propaganda to appeal to such simple thinking because of the short term nature of electoral politics. And yet, simple thinking is poisonous and leaves us simpleminded, so let’s endeavor toward greater understanding. This essay will explore the ideology, implications, and geopolitics of Brexit.
The Eurosceptic ideology (i.e., those opposed to the European Union) opposes the European Union because the European Union is contrary to national sovereignty or at least erodes national sovereignty. Obviously, national sovereignty is an abstract idea, but it is not totally abstract because people do not vote for or against abstract idea. In politics, abstract ideas are always representative of things that are deeper and more real to people; that is, explicit ideological ideas are indicative of implicit metapolitical ideas. National sovereignty represents the nation, and the nation represents blood and soil. A patriotic American who loves the US Constitution is not showing his or her love for a two hundred year old piece of paper but rather the people who wrote it. Indeed, likewise, a patriotic British man or woman lamenting the loss of British sovereignty is actually lamenting the loss of British blood and soil. Brexit is symbolic of British ethno-nationalism and positive ethno-centrism. Brexit is a step toward healthy cultural attitudes because white people need positive ethno-centrism to survive. Thus, Brexit implies a Communitarian or Identitarian instinct in the British national consciousness.
Moreover, the dialectic of the state is inherently an illiberal dialectic; that is, it juxtaposes “in” versus “out.” This dialectic is inescapable because the state distinguishes between citizens and non-citizens. Citizens are “in” the state and non-citizens are “out” of the state, so the state is an arbiter of community, but the opposite is also true. People elect the state and therefore choose whom is in that community. For Brexit, that choice was over whether to be British or not. Voting to stay in the European Union was voting to be not British, and voting to leave was voting to be British. The anti-Brexit self-loathing is obvious and palpable. But, conversely, the areas that voted leave are the areas that feel most British (i.e., England, Wales, and parts of Ulster Ireland, but especially southern and eastern England). Thus, Brexit is an expression of being British.
But this implicit ethno-centrism also expresses quintessentially British chauvinism against Europeans. British ethno-centrism disdains other Europeans, but it is also nostalgic for its empire. Since its empire is gone, they favor Commonwealth immigration to European immigration. Such chauvinism is stupid and suicidal because it creates an existential threat to white Britain, where immigration consists of more Kenyans and less Poles. Further, Brexit’s implicit ethno-centrism is directed against the European Union because the European Union is an actor of Neoliberalism, mass immigration, debt, and taxes—or so the Eurosceptics say. Although it is true, it is not true of only the European Union, and Europe’s national governments are far guiltier of these things. Taxes, debt, and immigration is the work of Europe’s nation-states. Nation-states can create or destroy any of these things because nation-states have the power to do that; that is, nation-states have militaries, currencies, and political, legal, and territorial hegemony. By contrast, the European Union has none of these things (i.e., apart from the Euro, which Britain never used).
Accordingly, the European Union’s only power is the power that is given to it by the nation-states. The nation-states can simply ignore the European Union’s demands. In the case of Hungary, the European Union ordered Hungary to accept a quota of refugees, but Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused. Instead, Orban passed a law in the Hungarian Parliament, denying the European Union’s legitimacy to coerce such a quota, and never accepted the refugees. It is obvious that the European Union is a toothless bureaucracy. It is not an instigator but a bystander of the things about which the Eurosceptic condemn so loudly. Thus, the logic of Euroscepticism fails because it displaces legitimate angers about Neoliberalism, immigration, and so on away from the nation-state and onto the European Union.
In spite of the extreme predictions, the world economy did not collapsed in on itself after the Brexit vote succeeded, but there were some economic losses. There was almost $200 billion lost altogether in investments, but only $82 billion of such investments was lost in European investments and even less therefore was lost in British investments. It is, then, not the British people but the transnational merchant class who are suffering from the economic implications of the Brexit vote. These are the money changers, usurers, and gamblers of postmodernity who destroy nations and economies to make their wallets fatter. It is, therefore, morally good that they are suffering from the Brexit vote.
Rather, the important implications of the Brexit vote are not economic but political. The primary political implication of the Brexit vote will be chaos in the system. Chaos will be in the system because Brexit violates the rules of the cosmopolitan political paradigm, so this paradigm loses legitimacy. The Neoliberals and Neoconservatives are the “Center” of contemporary politics—whom are the Center-Right and Center-Left of politics, respectively the Tories and Labour in British politics. They feign opposition to one another, but their premises, ideas, and ends do not at all oppose one another. They both share a vision of the future that will lead to a monocultural world with no identity or tradition. The people who voted for Brexit were a coalition of the illiberal Left and Right against the cosmopolitan Center. As Peter Hitchens remarked:
I realised [Brexit would happen] in early June when a chance encounter revealed to me that the old Labour working class vote was going heavily for Leave. Once this was clear, I was sure that Leave would win.
That shift might have been a populist act of revenge against the “smart people” (i.e., the egg heads who sneered at the possibility of Brexit). If it was such an act of revenge, it was a successful act of revenge because the “smart people” have been proven wrong. Further, the political paradigm of the “smart people” been defeated. Since the political paradigm has been defeated, the system has lost legitimacy. In future, this means the cosmopolitan Center can be defeated by an illiberal Left/Right coalition; of which, a surge of European ethno-nationalism and ethno-centrism may be a consequence. The practical short term implications of this loss of legitimacy will, first, be a rapid collapse of the establishments of both Labour and the Tories. The Brexit vote shows the power and influence of Old Labour, and David Cameron’s resignation symbolizes the replacing of Europhile Tories with Thatcherite Tories as the reigning faction of the Conservative Party. Or, perhaps, the Parties will collapse altogether. Second, since Brexit succeeded, UKIP’s central issue is finished. UKIP may dissolve as a Party. And, third, Scotland may vote to leave the United Kingdom but rejoin the European Union. Without Scotland, British politics would be severely more to the Right than it is now.
The cosmopolitan Center of politics is delegitimized; the system is weakened; and the Parties are edging toward political death. Overall, the political implications culminate in an opportunity for British ethno-nationalism to seize power. It is still not clear whether they can do that colossal task.
Since 1945, European nation-states have been off-shoring their defense onto non-Continental actors. The United States occupies Western Europe through both a direct military presence and proxy institutions, such as NATO. Meanwhile, Eastern Europe was annexed by the Soviet Union and still is under the Russian sphere of influence. In turn, Europe’s empires and militaries have collapsed to little of anything. The European Union was a contra-Atlanticist idea that intended to refocus hegemony in Europe to Europe, rather than to the United States or the Soviet Union. The European Union functions as a way for European nation-states to repudiate either American or Russian power. Outside of the European Union, European nation-states will seek a greater hegemonic power, so Brexit forces Britain to become closer to the United States. Since, after Brexit, the Thatcherite faction will gain prominence in the Conservative Party, this seems even more likely.
Also, Brexit may trigger a wider exit from the European Union for nation-states elsewhere in Europe. There are political parties in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Italy that likewise want their nations to exit from the European Union. The success of Brexit has shown that such an exit can succeed. And yet, there are also differences between Britain and these nations. Although the British are part of Europe writ large (i.e., the white race), Britain is not in Europe per se because Britain is geographically removed from the continent of Europe. Since ethno-cultural identities are shaped by geography, the British identity also is not connected to the continent of Europe. As Alain de Benoist recently noted:
[Brexit] is indeed a historic event. But first a note: they should, for starters, never have entered [the European Union]. As general de Gaulle had well understood in his time, England always felt closer to the United States (the “high seas”) than Europe, where it has never ceased to play the role of a Trojan horse Atlanticist and never fully accepted the rules. In this sense, the divorce terminates a marriage that was never really consumed.
Thus, Britain is not like other European nations because it has historical connections not to the continent of Europe but the Anglosphere. If true, a domino effect of nation-states leaving the European Union is unlikely and little will result from Brexit on the continent of Europe. Yet, if untrue, ironically, there indeed will be a pan-European en masse exit from the European Union. Such an en masse exit could be a good thing, a bad thing, or possibly a good and bad thing at the same time. Such an exit would be a good thing because Brexit creates chaos in the system. Also, as aforementioned, Brexit promotes healthy ethno-centrism, allowing ethno-nationalism to gain power. And yet, ethno-nationalism easily devolves into petty nationalism, making a united Identitarian Europe a more difficult possibility. Also, such an en masse exit would also upset the balance of powers in Europe. Vulnerable nation-states would need to seek hegemonic powers for protection, enlarging American and Russian hegemony in their respective spheres of influence; both of which can be destructive.
Overall, Brexit has been simplified by the system of Liberal Democracy to be either celestial or catastrophic, but truthfully Brexit is neither. Brexit is a complex issue with several layers. The explicit ideology of Brexit is symbolic for the implicit metapolitics of Brexit. Brexit is an “in” versus “out” dialectic, in which “out” chooses to be British and “in” chooses to be not British, so Brexit is an expression of Britishness as an ethno-cultural distinction. Although the explicit ideology is a red herring, the instincts that it promotes in the British national consciousness are healthy and good. Also, Brexit is remarkable because it shows that the illiberal Left and Right, together, can defeat the cosmopolitan Center of politics. It is easy to infer that the political hegemony of the cosmopolitan Center is fragile. The system of cosmopolitan Liberal Democracy, then, is in chaos. But, lastly, it is not clear what will happen post-Brexit internationally. It is not clear that Brexit is reflective of a European consciousness, rather than a British consciousness.