So close, and yet so far away. . . .For thousands of years, the peculiarities of geography have shaped the relationship between the British Isles and continental Europe. The Channel and the North Sea have served as both barrier and bridge, creating a unique situation in which life on either side of the water has evolved neither entirely separately nor entirely in sync. After World War II, questions of political and economic integration displaced questions of military security, but how to share peace and prosperity has proved almost as difficult as how to avoid war.

The shocking vote for “Brexit” on June 23 is thus only the latest twist in a long and complex story, and it raises far more questions than it answers. What does sovereignty mean in the twenty-first century? How much globalization is enough? And above all, is it possible for partners such as the United Kingdom and the European Community to remain loosely tied together in perpetuity, moving neither forward toward marriage nor backward toward divorce?

At Foreign Affairs, we’ve been following these debates closely for generations and are delighted to offer readers a guide to the subject that is as comprehensive as it is timely. It’s all here: from the tussle over whether the United Kingdom should join the Common Market, to its unique role in the European Community, to the bold new era of the European Union, to the buildup of populist tensions in the wake of large-scale migration and the financial crisis, to the domestic political maneuvering behind the referendum, to the vote’s stunning outcome and its turbulent aftermath.

We’ve gathered the highlights of our coverage from the 1960s to last week, all marked by the combination of authority and accessibility that is the hallmark of the Foreign Affairs brand. In June, Justice Secretary Michael Gove—one of the leaders of the “Leave” campaign—dismissed the overwhelming elite consensus opposing his position by saying, “I think people in this country have had enough of experts.” If you agree with him, read no further. But if you want to understand the real issues at stake, how we got here, and what will happen next, this collection—supplemented by the ongoing coverage on—is for you.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now