Britain's vote to leave the European Union was greeted in the kingdom and its former colonies by more than a few facile comparisons to a 240-year-old revolution. "The Brexit referendum is akin to our own Declaration of Independence," former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin enthused. The leader of the far-right UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, said the vote would "go down in history as our independence day."
Especially from a Philadelphian's perspective, such analogies, if followed to their absurd conclusion, suggest London and other major English cities had better gird for occupation. That probably won't be an issue, though, given the EU's noticeable lack of a standing army or interest in subjugating Old Blighty. In fact, in the wake of the vote, it's Europe that has been urging Britain to make its "Brexit" snappy even as some ostensible Brexiteers seem to be in no particular hurry.
A historically aware American might also note that Britons were remarkably more comfortable with border-crossing superstates when they forcibly ran one. Indeed, some of the oldest and nearest remnants of the empire on which the sun never set (until it did) are getting right restless in the face of rising English ethno-nationalism.
Submission to another union, the United Kingdom, makes less apparent sense today for Scotland, which expressed more will for union with Europe (62 percent) than it did two years ago for union with England (55 percent) - a nuance Donald Trump missed when he paused from promoting his Scottish golf course to take note of local anti-Europe enthusiasm that did not exist.
Northern Ireland, which voted against Britain's departure as well, is also facing new and awkward questions, such as what to do about its unfortified and often unmarked border with the EU-ensconced Republic of Ireland. Wales, that oldest and least restless of English conquests, voted narrowly with its northern neighbor to leave Europe despite strong economic ties to the continent.
For a tiny but very tricky dilemma, consider the British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, where 95 percent of voters preferred to remain in Europe - not surprisingly since that happens to be where they are.
It's difficult, in other words, to assume the sanctity of one's heterogeneous national conglomeration while fiercely championing international isolationism.
A more accurate American precedent for Brexit than independence is suggested by talk in its wake of a "Texit" - that is, of Texas leaving the United States (again). A British departure from the EU would be less a revolution than a secession. While cloaked in the language of democratic zeal, as many secessions have been, it was fueled by a desire to preserve or restore a real or imagined parochial past. The present economic and political fallout, however, has been disconcerting enough that the most prominent face of the campaign to leave Europe, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, has already abandoned his national ambitions.