My favorite commentary on the whole thing so far by Felix Salmon:
This vote is also the grimmest of reminders of the power still held by the older generation, not only in the UK but around the world. Young Britons—the multicultural generation which grew up in and of Europe, the people who have only ever known European passports—voted overwhelmingly to remain. They’re the generation that just lost its future. Meanwhile, Britons over the age of 65, fed a diet of lies by a sensationalist UK press, voted by a large margin to leave. Most of them did so out of a misplaced belief that doing so might reduce immigration, or make them better off, or save them from meddling bureaucrats. In a couple of decades, most of those voters will be dead. But the consequences of their actions will resonate far beyond the grave.
Since 1848, workers of the world were called to unite. Well what do you know, Karl Marx! It turns out that capital internationalized quite successfully to the point where national loyalty in the upper echelons of international finance seems a quaint and fond thing. In reaction, the working classes went full tilt into nationalism; all the way into its most chauvinistic, bigoted, and even racist manifestations.
And now, the United Kingdom is in peril of becoming a memory as Scotland and Northern Ireland now seriously contemplate independence referenda that might well succeed. All these older folk who wanted to make Britain Great again may well have created Little England instead, which is what they really wanted all along. So now a bitterly divisive election campaign waged in the American fashion of demonizing the opposition and clinging to a dominant narrative despite all facts to the contrary has come to an end. Britain ends up even more polarized along lines of race, age, and class than the USA at this point.
The European Union is hardly blameless in all this. After 8 years of austerity policies that primarily served the interests of bankers and creditors at the expense of ordinary people, what did they really expect? So now much less economically secure populations turn against the whole European project and turn toward far right ultra-nationalist and racist parties. The cosmopolitan vision promoted by Europe degenerated into the predation and nihilism of international market capitalism; a global economy built at the expense of Western labor.
I'm sad to see the European project come to so disgraceful and squalid an end. Europe in its various flawed and barely functioning incarnations brought 7 decades of peace and 5 decades of mass prosperity; the longest peace and the highest standard of living to the largest number of people ever in the continent's long turbulent history. That was a major accomplishment matched only by the Post War expansion in the USA that created the world's first mass prosperity. And now we may be looking at all of that in the rear window as Europe returns to bad old habits of stupid nationalism and paranoid rivalries.
I fear we in the USA may come to a similar conclusion with even more destructive results.