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Brexit, a test for nationalism

By giving an absolute majority to Boris Johnson's Conservatives, the British confirmed their vote of 23 June 2016 in favour of leaving the European Union. It will now take place on 31 January next.

Considered an amputation for Europe and a miscalculation for the United Kingdom, this decision is much more than that; it is a fundamental democratic test: is a return to the nation the solution?

The Brexiters' main argument was in fact, to "take back control" of their destiny in the name of national sovereignty.

At this beginning of the 21st century, populations are seeking refuge in their identity and roots, safe from the confusion and uncertainties of the world. They are turning to what is most familiar to them, the family, the community, the region or the nation.

Many politicians who exalt the nation have understood this, since in their opinion it alone is capable of offering the passionate enthusiasm that reason no longer provides, thereby easing their fellow citizens' anxiety a little. Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Xi and many others.... Beyond their populism, there is in fact a return to nationalism.

The reality awaiting those who have crafted Brexit is this: will they be able to meet the British population's high expectations which they have exacerbated?

Is the national state that they have glorified still capable, alone, of meeting their electorate's demands for security and prosperity, the country's economic and social needs and more simply the general interest of the Kingdom? Or do the complexity of the issues to be solved, the interdependence of economies and societies, the extraordinary mobility of people and goods, require ever closer cooperation, supranational regulations and multilateral organisations?

In 19th century philosophical debates regarding the political organization of societies, Ernest Renan, a French philologist, theorized that the nation was "a soul, a spiritual principle, (...), a "collective will to live", which could not be limited to race, religion or geography.  He also stated: "Nations are not something eternal. They have started, they will finish. The European confederation, probably, will replace them." This was in 1882.

With the choice of the European Union, which protects identities by allowing national States to assume their prerogatives through close cooperation and nascent mutualisation, Boris Johnson has preferred to flatter the nationalism that lies dormant in every European and across the Channel, is fuelling true nostalgia. He must now demonstrate that it was not just demagoguery.  Starting with the Scots ....