Europe should not treat Britain as a prison escapee but as a potential compatriot.
And the U.S. has a vital role to play.
By HENRY A. KISSINGER
June 28, 2016 6:03 p.m. ET
The cascade of commentary on Britain’s decision to leave institutional Europe has described the epochal event primarily in the vocabulary of calamity. However, the coin of the realm for statesmen is not anguish or recrimination; it should be to transform setback into opportunity.
The impact of the British vote is so profound because the emotions it reflects are not confined to Britain or even Europe. The popular reaction to European Union institutions (as reflected in public-opinion polls) is comparable in most major countries, especially France and Spain. The multilateral approach based on open borders for trade and the movement of peoples is increasingly being challenged, and now an act of direct democracy intended to reaffirm the status quo has rendered a damning verdict. However challenging this expression of popular sentiment, ignoring the concerns it manifests is a path to greater disillusionment.
Brexit is a classic illustration of the law of unintended consequences. The British government sought a Remain vote to end, once and for all, domestic disputes about Europe in a minority of the Conservative Party and among fringe populist groups. Many backers of the Leave campaign were surprised by their success, having understood their political mission initially in much less sweeping terms.