Even before the referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) over whether or not to remain a member of the European Union (EU), one of the epithets directed at "Leavers" was that they were "little Englanders."
The UK has always had its share of isolationists. But, looking at the 20th century alone, this is the country that declared war when Germany invaded Belgium in August 1914. It also declared war when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. And on Christmas Day in 1944 Winston Churchill flew to Athens in a successful bid to thwart a communist takeover of Greece – in which he had the backing of Stalin, who had agreed with him at a meeting in Moscow the preceding October that Greece should remain in the Western sphere of influence.
That might all be history. But the UK currently contributes more to the defence of members of the EU than most of those members themselves do. Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) are supposed to spend 2% of GDP on defence by 2024, a target agreed to in 2014. But only a small minority of NATO's 27 European members are spending 2%, despite the fact that NATO was established in 1949 to protect Western Europe from greater Russian incursions than had already taken place when Stalin sent his armies against Nazi Germany.
The UK, Poland, Estonia, and Greece all spend 2% or more on defence. Germany spends only 1.35%. Under prodding which Barrack Obama started and which Donald Trump has intensified, Germany is supposed to reach 1.5% in 2020, but will meet the 2% target only in 12 years' time. Meanwhile, some of Europe's governments, members of both NATO and the EU but reluctant to meet their current commitments on military spending, are once again toying with the idea of a European army.
Few sections of the media have been as hostile to the very notion of Brexit as The Economist. But last month that magazine acknowledged that it "may do some good" to Britain. "The political class had come to see its job as representing the state to the people rather than the people to the state... Britain is engaged in a process of self- correction. The political system is being reattached to the people it represents."
In layman's language, democracy in Britain is back in business.