Contributor Perspectives

A Brexit Cancels out the Real Benefit of Devolution

Parag Khanna
Board of Contributors
Jun 8, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
The United Kingdom will hold a referendum on its EU membership on June 23, but a Brexit would simply mark the completion of the former empire's decline into the strategic netherworld behind great powers.

The United Kingdom will hold a referendum on its EU membership on June 23, but a Brexit would simply mark the completion of the former empire's decline into the strategic netherworld behind great powers.

(CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/Getty Images)

The most powerful political force of our age is devolution. Since World War II, the number of independent states has roughly quadrupled from 50 to nearly 200. European empires, the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia split into dozens of independent states. From East Timor to South Sudan -- not to mention Kurdistan and the Palestinian territories -- the jackhammer of devolution continues its assault on sovereign unity. Not only is devolution a more universal aspiration than democracy, but as Scotland and Catalonia aptly demonstrate, democracy serves only to fuel devolution: When given the choice, cities and provinces gravitate toward more autonomy and local self-rule. And yet, as Britain contemplates its own exit from the European Union, it risks negating the only equal and opposite dialectical force that counters devolution: aggregation. Every statelet born today seeks not to be an island adrift but to be part of larger communities that offer...

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