Take a look at this map. It shows areas in Europe with strong nationalist tendencies. Some have active separatist movements, others are demanding increased autonomy but not independence
In many of these regions, secessionist movements may be favored by a minority of the population. In all these regions, there is some degree of national consciousness that is dissonant with the current boundaries of Europe’s nation-states.
What does this mean for the future of Europe?
It shows that the European Union is a flawed institution. Its members could never decide what they wanted it to be.
The EU is not quite a sovereign entity. But it claims more authority than a free trade agreement because European nation-states gave up some of their sovereignty to Brussels… but not all of it. So when serious issues arose (such as the 2008 financial crisis or the influx of Syrian and other refugees), EU member states went back to solving problems the way they did before the EU. Instead of “one for all and all for one,” it was “to each their own, but you still have to buy German products.”
Brexit shook the foundations of the EU in 2016. And in 2017, we will have elections in France and Germany and domestic instability in Italy shaking the EU foundations. But Brexit also opened the doors to a deeper question: How will national self-determination be defined in the 21st century? Not all of Europe’s nation-states are on stable ground. The most important consequences of Brexit may end up being its impact on the political future of the United Kingdom. And in Spain, Catalonia already claims it will hold an independence referendum this year.
Brussels, meanwhile, keeps trying to speak with one voice. But the European Union, if it still exists, is going to look very different five years from now.