Waving the Union Jack in London, January 2020
Henry Nicholls / Reuters

At midnight on December 31, 2020, the United Kingdom completed its withdrawal from the European Union. Having finally signed a trade deal governing the relationship between the two sides, London was “unshackled from the corpse that is the EU,” as Brexiteers dramatically put it. The United Kingdom was now free to seek its destiny as “Global Britain.”

But where does this destiny lie? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sold Brexit on the expansive promise of a “new Elizabethan age”—a British resurgence around the globe. Britons, like their buccaneering forebears, could now set sail for new horizons—crafting grand trade deals, reengaging

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