LONDON – A referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union may be less than a year away. If it comes, voters will be asked to make a weighty decision. At issue is not just the UK’s relationship with its neighbors across the channel, but also its proper position on the international stage.
Fortunately, few in the country are supporters of the hoary concept of “splendid isolation.” Whether or not the UK – one of the world’s most outward-looking countries – remains in the EU, globalization rules out that option.
Instead, proponents of withdrawal from the EU tend to fall back on nostalgia-infused reinventions of Britain’s imperial past – most notably the nebulous notion of the “Anglosphere,” a concept based on Winston Churchill’s idea of unity among the “English-speaking peoples.” Instead of trading with the economically sclerotic and navel-gazing EU, the argument goes, it would be far better to form bilateral partnerships with countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and India.
The argument generally offered is one of cultural affinity – as if centuries of common history, culture, and relations with the rest of Europe counted for nothing. Indeed, with the English language now globally ubiquitous, the idea of an Anglosphere is little more than an artificial construct behind which anti-European sentiment can be hidden.