A most interesting question, and even more interesting comments. I agree about Britain’s idiosyncratic outlook on the world. I say idiosyncratic because it does seem to belong to Britain alone, and is in my opinion a remnant of a bygone empire. An imperialistic hangover. Churchill once said that he thought a united Europe was a good idea but that Britain should not be in it. Be that as it may, in the mid-70’s Britain went about joining. A cynical reader may be inclined to believe the ‘Yes Minster’ viewpoint (a 1970’s British political comedy) that implied Britain only joined in order to break it up.
Be that as it may, they joined and the last 40 odd years have seen many changes. In Britain a new generation of Brits has been raised that sees the benefit of Europe, and understand that their lives don’t have to revolve around full English breakfast and pints of beer to make them happy. The EU on the other hand has grown, and sadly become more arrogant. They think that because their systems give them a lot of power through the commission they can just write off the voter, but 2016 and 2017 was a wake up call. They didn’t believe that Britain would walk, and few would have believed that elections in France, Netherlands and Austria could cause them so much angst.
But the growth in the far-right is waking everyone up, and they are responding. From the Euro problem to immigration, they have problems but are tackling them.
Then there is the Brexit problem, The British are right when they consider that their leaving would create such a headache, but they are wrong in their proposed solution. Britain sees themselves as indispensable and have effectively issued their ultimatum “give us what we want or cut off your own heads”, and the EU has responded, I have another idea, “I’ll just take a couple of aspirins and worry about the problem tomorrow when the nightmare has gone away”. Is this an impasse? Of course it is! The EU never wanted it, and did their best to keep Britain inside, but if push comes to shove, how should they respond?
The Brits are counting on their own perceived value to save them, while the EU sees things differently. To them, an EU with Britain may have made them bigger and stronger, but they refuse to allow the aggressor to dismantle their 75 odd-years of work. Will they both lose? Of course they will, but it won’t be the economic problem to the EU that Britain foresees.
It will be the embarrassment of losing a member. Britain on the other hand has been slowly but gradually declining as a world power since the 19th century. This will simply speed up the decline.