When Theresa May takes the reins of power in London this week, it’s almost certain she’ll execute policies that are to David Cameron’s political right and will likely (and swiftly) invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, thereby officially commencing Britain’s exit from the European Union — the so-called Brexit. Many British citizens who voted in favor of Brexit on June 23 were of the impression that the money sent to Brussels for EU programs would now remain in London, to be used on health care, roads, schools, and other public goods in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The nationalism behind the Brexit vote has its roots in a long list of woes inside the United Kingdom and also reflects a larger trend seen all over the world toward retrenchment and a general push to move away from globalization.
This new sense of nationalism that fueled Brexit, or, to coin a mouthful of a term, anti-globalizationism, poses an existential threat to an array of initiatives that have saved millions of lives, mostly in poor or war-torn regions of the world.
While it is certainly true that financial empires and multinational corporations have benefited from globalization to the tune of trillions of dollars over the last 25 years, great humanitarian dreams have also been constructed in this new world, with lowered borders, more open trade, cyber-connectedness, and a sense of responsibility by wealthy nations toward middle- and lower-income states. Retreat behind traditional national borders, both physically and metaphorically, directly challenges the furtherance of all of the great 21st-century dreams.