Keep calm and Brexit on: History suggests leaving Europe is great for Britain

The exit of Great Britain from the European Union is a clear demonstration that history is not linear. Countries may go in one direction and then in another. Many people also believe Brexit shows that countries can retrogress after having reached the pinnacle of civilization. This is certainly true. It happened with Rome, for instance. But I argue that this is not the case of Britain with Brexit. In fact, it might be the best thing for Great Britain in the long run.

Certainly, what the British voted for goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. For many centuries, we have believed that countries get better as they become bigger, or part of a bigger political entity. In this way, many people think that modernization in Europe began in the 17th century with the integration of the many feuds of France into a unified kingdom under Louis XIV.

The unification of the United States created a country that was not just big, but great. Germany became a power to reckon with only after its unification, carried out in the Palace of Versailles in 1871. And Europe had seemed to be reestablishing the grandeur it lost during the course of two world wars by coming together in the European Union. Now Britain spoiled the inexorable march of progress by voting itself out of the European Union. Or, at least, that is what the overwhelming majority of people in the world seem to be thinking.

Is the majority right?

What did Britain vote for?

The almost universal disdain for what Britain did on June 23 is based on four mistaken perceptions. First, most people seem to believe that the country voted against free trade and globalization. This voters did not do. They voted against being members of the European Union (EU), an institution bent on creating something like the United States of Europe, establishing a common European sovereignty over all its members. Voters have not said that they want to isolate Britain. On the contrary,they have said that they want to remain a globalized country and very close to Europe.

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