Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU)—nicknamed “Brexit”—does not have anything like the security ramifications for the West that its opponents liked to pretend during the recent campaign. A central part of the pro-Remain campaign was to try to terrify voters into believing that Brexit entailed dire security implications, but the British public voted to leave anyhow, because they understood that far from guaranteeing peace and security on the European continent, the EU has been at best neutral in its effect, and it was always NATO that has been the bedrock.
The meaning of any nation’s membership in or departure from any “union” or alliance, especially with regard to geopolitical strategies, depends entirely on the nature and degree of that unity or alliance—in short, on the extent to which these represent a common will. History teaches that international organizations, ranging from formal “unions” to informal alliances, tend to obscure the members’ differing wills, and to be hindrances to rational strategizing, individual and collective.
Will Britain’s departure from the EU set off a stampede, prompting other members to bolt? The probability ranges from “very low” to “nil.” Like Tolstoy’s oft-invoked unhappy family, every EU member is unhappy in his own way, but none will take the plunge. For one, everyone is feeling in his own body politic Britain’s buyer’s remorse on the day thereafter. The pound took the largest hit in more than thirty years.