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Europe Lives On

There is no denying that the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union represents a loss for all involved, and strikes a blow against the very idea of Europe. But while Britain has left Europe, Europeans should not abandon the British legacy – particularly the deep, historical commitment to liberalism.

PARIS – Brexit is a disaster for the United Kingdom. Given the risk that it will now lose Scotland and Northern Ireland to secession, the country seems to have accepted the idea of Great Britain turning back into “Little England.” Britain is that rare lion that chooses to become as small as a mouse.

To be sure, saving the English realm is all the Brexiteers ever cared about. But what sort of realm has a prime minister who lies to its queen, as Boris Johnson did when he suspended Parliament last year? Through it all, the Brexiteers have exalted the British Empire and Winston Churchill. Yet they have forgotten Karl Marx, an earlier wanderer of the London streets who warned that history eventually repeats itself as farce. With Johnson in power, the UK is governed by a pantomime Churchill. Rather than an exponent of courage, it has the Prince of Cynicism – a scruffy knock-off who adapts his opinions to whatever is politically expedient.

The Brexiteers are now fixated on the “sovereignty” that they have supposedly regained. Yet it is well known that they owe their success in the 2016 referendum to Russian interference and American social-media algorithms. The “Leave” campaign was a saturnalia of cynicism and fake news, led by charlatans who were only too happy to be mistaken for the country’s staunchest democrats. It was less a moment of truth than a bad novel come to life.

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