Joseph S. Nye Jr.
Courtesy: Shizuoka Shimbun

Although Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union was non-binding, the results of the national referendum sent shockwaves throughout the British economy and to markets around the world. Britain remains the world’s fifth-largest economy, but when added to the EU, the two economies form the world largest market, exceeding even the United States.

Britain’s Conservative Party has been fractured over the country’s role in Europe for decades and former Prime Minister David Cameron thought he could hold the party together by promising a referendum on Europe, which he expected to win. The results were close, with the side favoring a British exit (“Brexit”) prevailing over those who wished to remain, 52 to 48 percent.

Just as interesting as the final result was the way in which opinion was split in the country. Polls showed that younger people preferred to remain in the European Union, while older people favored leaving. However, older people proved more likely to vote than young people. Geographically, cosmopolitan London heavily favored remaining in the EU. More ominous, Scotland strongly favored remaining in Europe, although many Scots have said that if England carries out the plan to leave the EU, Scotland should secede from Britain and remain in Europe.

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