June 23, 2016 will be a day that will go down in history as the day when the downfall of of the post WWII liberal order in the Western world was set in motion. The departure of Britain from the EU will the first domino in the fall of liberal internationalism as the fall of the Berlin Wall began the fall of the Soviet system, even if in this case the process may take longer. Britain may have seemed an unlikely place for it all to begin, but nevertheless that is where it happened, and the damage has occurred in a particularly sensitive spot.
Britain’s history as the country that successfully colonized North America and defeated its rivals gave it a link to the New World that other European countries don’t have. Indeed, it was Britain’s former colonies that would later form the United States. This fact is well known, but it provides some background for position Britain plays in world politics today. After the dissolution of the British Empire, that role was largely as a mediation between the US and Western Europe, and later the between the US and the EU. Britain was in the unique position of sharing a common historical connection to both America and continental Europe. By helping to keep the liberal internationalists on both sides of the Atlantic on roughly the same page, Britain continued to play a role that was disproportionate to her size.
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU significantly damages that link. In effect, it threatens to cut the forces of global liberalism in two. Rather than increasing US influence in Europe, it will actually reduce it. A house divided against itself ultimately will not stand. This is not only good news for people, wherever they may be, who are unhappy about the way the US is influencing world politics, but also Americans who are unhappy with the direction they have seen their county move in recent years. It weakens the powers that be in Washington, and focuses the spotlight on their failures at home. The New World Order, which hasn’t won a major victory since the fall of South Africa, is now receding. The wheels of history grind slow but exceedingly fine. They a turning a different way now.