British EU Exit: An Expression of Counter-Cosmopolitanism

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is one example of a resurgent national yearning across the West.

London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011
London mayor Boris Johnson poses for a photo, November 24, 2011 (i-Images/Andrew Parsons)

A smart right-wing take on Britain’s vote to leave the European Union comes from Yuval Levin in America’s National Review.

Levin writes that an assertive cosmopolitan elite has conspired in recent years with a weakening of traditional communities in Europe to create “an intense desire for a reassertion of control and authority from the bottom up.”

This resurgent national yearning is in one way or another growing in most Western societies. Many things could be said about it, good and bad, but one is surely that it strongly suggests that globalism is not the future and nationalism is not the past.

This goes to the blue-red culture war we’ve been writing about here at the Atlantic Sentinel.

Levin cautions against dismissing one half of that debate as revanchist or xenophobic. No doubt a “fervent national spirit can (like other fervent political passions) invite and incite resentment, exclusion and hate,” he writes, but — and this is a point Megan McArdle also made at Bloomberg View the other day — we still got to live together in one society.

As McArdle put it, there is no “Transnationalprofessionalistan” to which the 48 percent of Britons who voted to remain in the European Union can move.


Those who believe in the need for a constructive, practical and edifying counterforce to cosmopolitanism need to be cautious, though, about who they elect to embody their aspirations, writes Levin. “No one should want their cause to be associated in the public mind with a malevolent charlatan.”

He is thinking, of course, about Donald Trump, but could the same not be said of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage?

Which raises the question: just where are the responsible, respectable leaders of a counter-cosmopolitan movement?

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