On March 30, 2019, the United Kingdom will find itself sovereign once again. Too much media fretting has been centered on the terms of the deal; but it will result as all deals do: with some people pleased with the outcome, others terribly unsatisfied and most unsure of what just happened.
Yet the nation's future global role has seemingly taken a backseat in the media coverage, suppressed by daily controversies, manufactured catastrophes and transient opinions. This is a serious omission. The memory of Brexit itself will fade, but the stance that the UK adopts as a newly independent power will provide lasting repercussions.
To meet the future, Britain must seek inspiration from its past. The wisdom that is required to prosper as a sovereign nation will not be found in the writings of David Cameron, Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. They were all too much in the European Union to think outside of it. The United Kingdom must seek guidance in the writings of its greatest statesmen and leaders, those historic figures who believed in Britain as independently defined from Europe. I am speaking of leaders such as Benjamin Disraeli, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, lode stars of philosophical movements and not merely political agendas. Their words provide a roadmap for Britain.
Benjamin Disraeli once remarked, "The secret of success is constancy to purpose." In governmental terms, constancy is difficult to attain in a democracy because there are so many transitions of party and leadership, pendulum swings of personalities and platforms. Britain needs an idealistic goal, a document of intent, a philosophy that exists in daily governance yet transcends daily argument.
In other words they need a written constitution.
Many people are surprised to learn that the UK has no written constitution like America. The closest equivalent is the Magna Carta, a declaration of certain rights granted to the people by their monarch. Yet the American Constitution is an assertion of the people's rights over government, rights given not by a sovereign, but by their creator. From that basis the government is constructed. While obviously possessing of unique qualities, the British government needs such a document to guide its future actions.
Winston Churchill once said, "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." In this statement is an explanation of why the United States is consistently disliked by at least a handful of countries around the world at every point in its history, because America has led the world for the last seven decades, and leaders always take more criticism than followers. For the UK, its entrance into the EU marked, in large respects, a major surrender of leadership. They received less criticism, but they gave up their unique vitality, a vitality that once drove their nation to stare down Hitler against all odds. Britain post-Brexit once again has the chance to earn criticism, but they shouldn't fear it.
Theresa May is Britain's second female Prime Minister. In spite of the overwhelming amount of criticism she has come under, she has led the nation with a shoestring parliamentary majority and an unyielding intention to remain at the helm of a country rediscovering that it is necessary to stand alone before standing with others. She will lead Britain out of the EU next year, and she will pick up again the work that Thatcher started: building a strong, vibrant, independent Britain. Thatcher declared boldly, "If you lead a country like Britain, a strong country, a country which has taken a lead in world affairs in good times and in bad, a country that is always reliable, then you have to have a touch of iron about you."
The soon to be free United Kingdom can count itself very blessed, for underneath an unassuming manner, I sense in May a Prime Minister who may prove to be a very worthy successor to the Iron Lady. And that will be essential, for the time has come for the nation that once ruled the world to find its place in it again.
Garrison Moratto is a student member of Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs and Studies at Helms School of Government.