Suppose you are not British. Suppose you are nonetheless very fond of Britain because of family ties, a British spouse or partner, for example, or a strong cultural interest in the country. Suppose you also speak English reasonably well; you might've spent years living and working in Britain. All of this would allow you to take great pleasure in British culture. You enjoy, and are immersed in, a whole world into which you were not born but nevertheless play a significant part.
That is the experience of so many EU citizens in post-Brexit Britain, and the perspective that I am writing from myself. Britain is my spiritual home, even though I didn't know I was looking for it in the first place; we just met, so to speak.
I’ve never needed a UK passport for to allow this relationship between country and immigrant to develop and flourish. Being an EU citizen was just about enough for me.
So my fears about the impact of Brexit bear no hallmarks of schadenfreude whatsoever. Nevertheless, witnessing the political and social transition that my adoptive country is going through towards the issuing Article 50 and eventually leaving the EU, has only solidified my views about why it is such a significant mistake for all Britons, not just those who have chosen to make Britain their home.
I believe Britons will come to regret choosing to exit the EU – and here are the three reasons why.
The UK’s relationship with the US is no replacement for its membership of the EU
In the special relationship with the US, Britain is only a junior partner. If you disagree with the US – and it will happen in such a chaotic political environment – then to whom do you turn to for support? The EU?
As former prime minister John Major recently pointed out: “If we disagree with American policy, we may weaken our ties. But if we support it slavishly, we become seen as an American echo –an invidious role for a nation that has broken free from Europe to become more independent.”
It’s not just Donald Trump's constant contradictions that have set alarm bells ringing, there are also wider geopolitical issues to handle. How do you deal with Russia in the modern world? And China?
Everyone's got a different strategy in mind. Blocs are being taken down, meaning that Moscow and Beijing will have more freedom to act as they choose. This would be fine in a conflict-free world, but common strategies need careful planning. Brexit is throwing that commonality across Europe into question. The consequences could be harmful for everyone in Europe, including all its major and minor nations.
Who’s leading who?
Second, if Britain is eagerly looking for a leading role anywhere in the world, then the best place for that is Europe – the continent it belongs to. Coming out of that continental political bond just as Europe is becoming a byword for the EU and its values is not a sensible move.
In fact, it demonstrates that Brexit is all about a domestic power struggle and nothing to do with the designing of a new, methodical global strategy. The Conservative party has successfully deprived Ukip of any authority in Britain. But that’s all it has achieved.
It's now very difficult to talk about Brexit and its international implications without slipping straight back into national politics.
The empire strikes back
Finally, having touched on the world's major players, I mustn't forget to mention Britain's oldest friends. The concept of a “global Britain” after Brexit is being looked at very sceptically within the Commonwealth.
It's been widely reported that India and other former colonies fear that Britain and its voters may be indulging in empire nostalgia, which is not going to boost Britain's new image; quite the opposite, some would say. Britain is being seen from the outside as having an inflated ego about its own economic power – and that only serves to reinforce old prejudices about Britain and the British. This heady mix of weakness on the world stage and arrogance at home is hardly inspiring. “Britain needs India more than India needs Britain,” this newspaper recently concluded. And with good reason.
All these problems will eventually combine to damage Britain’s reputation, and destroy its hard-fought for ability to wield soft power. And for that reason, Brexit will be the biggest decision Britons have taken that they will live to personal regret.