The more ‘respectable’ members of the public sought to justify their antipathy for the EU by arguing for a Hobbesian notion of sovereignty, which coincides with government rather than wider democratic structures. In the globalised and interconnected world of the twenty first century, the EU is a democratic attempt at dealing with international challenges, such as environmental protection, people and capital mobility, and multinationals dodging taxes and cutting workers’ rights by pitting one state against the other.
The EU is only as good as the efforts made by its members and elected representatives in making it work. A more democratic EU requires national leaders to relinquish some power to ensure that the representatives of European citizens have more influence. Instead of building consensus, the UK demanded a special status.
The independence celebrated by Brexiteers is nothing but a futile search for dominance over others, rather than cooperating with others and sharing responsibility for this shared world. The belief that a country, any country, is independent and can have a mere transactional relationship with others with few or no obligations is fanciful at best.
No country, and indeed no human being, is independent. We are interdependent. Sometimes this means cooperation and friendship and sometimes it is exploitation and dominance. It is up to us to ensure that our relationships are not exploitative.
Brexiteers’ sovereignty tapped into the colonial nostalgia and delusion of grandeur that is still part of its national consciousness. What with America speaking English, the British public has never really been confronted with the loss of empire and a thorough critique of it. Colonial Britishness had precise racial hierarchies that echo in the racist immigration policies of Commonwealth countries, such as Canada and Australia. It is no wonder that people are now telling British ethnic minorities to ‘leave the country’. Sovereignty is just the other side of the coin of xenophobic nationalism.
In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.