Global Economics Monthly: In or Out, Britain Needs to Act Like the Economic Power It Is
July 26, 2016
On my desk at work I have a small acrylic paperweight with the Millennium Dome etched inside. This souvenir of London’s tent-like white elephant, built to mark the year 2000 celebrations, is my own small reminder of Britain’s “Little England” mentality. Instead of showcasing the country’s many contributions to the world over the past 1,000 years—parliamentary democracy, the English language, and golf, to name just three—the exhibitions inside the ill-fated structure evoked, at best, a 1950s-era technology trade show.
Many explanations have been given for British voters’ decision last month to withdraw from the European Union: anti-immigrant feeling, anxieties about globalization, disdain for Brussels bureaucracy. All of these factors probably played a part. But at its core, I believe the Brexit vote stemmed from the same psychology that limited the vision of the Dome’s planners: lack of confidence about Britain’s place in the world. Most Britons today see their country as just a small island nation off the mainland of Europe with little influence over regional or global affairs.