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With a new electoral balance, the United Kingdom could become more like its European neighbors, with proportional representation, coalition governments, and an increasingly decentralized political system.

Finally, all of the contending parties have charted different courses for the future of the British-EU relationship. In the past, Brown’s New Labour flaunted the superiority of Britain’s free-market, finance-based capitalism in comparison to continental Europe’s supposedly sclerotic economy.
But with the demise of this model, more than a little schadenfreude is blowing back over the English Channel. Britain’s “mono-crop dependency” on finance, as the economist Martin Wolf has called it, now looks less compelling as a template for reviving the European economy. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are the most avowedly pro-Europe, but with the EU and the euro in crisis as well, they have sought to downplay their pro-Europe stance in the election campaign. For Conservatives, the Europe question is the zombie issue that they cannot kill.
Cameron has made no attempt to move the party beyond its knee-jerk Thatcherite Euroscepticism, and much of his party remains deeply hostile to the EU. A Conservative government would most likely mean a return to the tense U.K.-EU relations of the early 1990s.
“Splendid isolation” was the guiding principle of British foreign policy in the nineteenth century. British leaders minimized foreign entanglements and maximized freedom to act independently. In the twenty-first century, Britain may have “less-than-splendid isolation” thrust upon it and may have less freedom to act than ever before.
Languishing in recession, unable to project force, and unwilling to engage with others, Britain may turn inward and rethink its legacies — institutional and economic, domestic and foreign. The upcoming election is nothing less than a referendum on leaders and policies past. The outcome of that referendum will become the frame for where the United Kingdom will go next.

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