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Brexit is not the ultimate parameter in the long but calculated decline of Britain. The rise of the United States and the gradual decline of its relative power by nearly all measurements have resulted in a complex spectrum of long-term impact and fall-out, especially in the realm of economic and political interdependence.

Joining the European Union was seen as the right step forward in promoting regional economic integration and peace-building efforts through integrated interdependence, mainly rooted in the democratic peace theory.

The past two decades have wrought systemic and seismic changes upon the EU and its member states. In countering Chinese penetration in the European region on the geopolitical and economic fronts, meticulous yet direct measures must reduce Beijing’s impact and reinforce the commitment to the Western order.

The controversial rise of Boris Johnson, a strong proponent for the “Leave” EU campaign, sums up the divided sentiments within the nation as it calculates its best path forward. Those who have long argued to remain in the EU have argued that Britain’s sovereignty and fundamental interests would not be eroded, as the “Leavers” claim. By remaining in the EU, Britain could maintain greater influence over international affairs. As for the issue of sovereignty, Britain was able to keep its own currency and opt-out of certain EU policies, including the Schengen Agreement and migrant quotas.

Pro-EU movements have posited that the EU better provides Britain with the tools to address emerging threats to security, including terrorism and trans-national crime, with the joint resources and pooling of support available. In addition, the UK would benefit from public and private sector investments and increased trade from the European market. For once, both parties agree: leaving the EU would result in severe short and long-term economic consequences.

“The four freedoms,” which refer to the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people across borders, remain the most critical tool in sustaining economic progress. Free trade within the EU and a less restrictive international trade environment would reduce barriers and provide the stimulus for businesses and companies to grow. Britain’s exit from the EU put thousands of job opportunities and potential for economic growth at risk.

Declining regional cooperation and strongly inward-looking perspectives have enabled the ascent of nationalist and far-right voices. This influence is exacerbated by the rise of non-traditional threats and the return of traditional threats on a global scale, which negatively impact national interests and sovereignty. By remaining in the EU, Britain would be bound by centralized policies and measures from Brussels that could interfere with its national interests and economic independence. It could also limit international influence from the missed opportunity of independent seats at key global institutions such as the World Trade Organization. Leaving the EU would also ensure greater say over its own laws and a boost in domestic security from full border authority.

This is critical against the backdrop of renewed threats from the European refugee crisis and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. In terms of the costs of membership, the cost of EU membership could be redirected to other sectors that prioritize the national interest. Being tied down by the EU would make it more difficult for Britain to trade with major economies, including the U.S. and India. Bureaucracy and red tape could impede the expansion of businesses and industries. The British job market would benefit from a more independent trade framework and defined authority on immigration.

Moving forward, the government’s approach to foreign relations will need a practical and future-driven reset. Old dogmas and norms are again cast to the forefront of the debate between efficacy and efficiency.

The Indo-Pacific remains the next frontier for Britain to increase its global soft power and hard power projections. In light of the shifting security climate and the worsening traditional threats in the region, the reinforcement of both defensive and offensive capacities remain paramount.

With only around 225 nuclear warheads, Britain finds itself in a scramble to fortify its nuclear capacity. It has increased the ceiling on its weapons stockpile and announced that it would no longer disclose the official figures of its operational nuclear weapons. The bellicose actions of Beijing and worsening security dilemma in the region pose a major security threat.

London has lacked a cohesive, strategic, and long-term containment and deterrence strategy in dealing with this issue. Distracted by its foreign engagements and the quagmire from the 2009 financial and Eurozone crisis, Britain often handled China’s threat without consistency or clarity. Britain’s increasing economic interdependence did not help matters surrounding Beijing’s infiltration and trade openings.

While there is practically no opening for Britain to regain its former glory as the world’s dominant power, it will need to maintain strategic alliances and ensure a constant presence in critical areas of the Indo-Pacific. That way, it will prove a competent leader in the Western world, standing up to Beijing and the Kremlin. Brexit might be the right tool for Britain to regain its lost momentum.

Cornered by the rise of right-wing and ultra-nationalist movements in rejecting the embedded grip of Brussels, moving away from the control and pressure of a union might spur new opportunities for autonomy, despite the loss of certain economic advantages.

The return of traditional threats, the regional and global arms race, and the inevitable security dilemma presents a no-win situation for Britain or other regional players, forcing them to risk the national interest on the pretext of shoring up economic resilience. If push comes to shove, victory in the competition for geopolitical influence and hard power remains the only option.

Collins Chong Yew Keat has been serving in University of Malaya for more than 9 years. His areas of focus include strategic and security studies, America’s foreign policy and power projection, regional conflicts and power parity analysis and has published various publications on numerous platforms including books and chapter articles. He is also a regular contributor in providing op-eds and analytical articles for both the local and international media on various contemporary global issues and regional affairs since 2007.