Maybe it was those college courses on the history of Europe that soured me on the idea of a united continent. How could a conglomeration of nation states noted for invading each other, pillaging and warring against each other form a union? How could a continent with different languages, cultures and money become a united states of Europe modeled after the USA?

Unity is not union. As the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher observed: "European unity has been tried before, and the outcome was far from happy."

The euro, which I also mocked at the time it was introduced on January 1, 1999, replaced the French franc (the Swiss wisely kept their franc), the German mark, the Dutch guilder and most other circulating currencies. Thatcher again: "The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially..." How prescient she was.

A majority of British voters literally want their country back. That sentiment was repeated in interviews with average blokes on the BBC and Sky. They are tired of being dictated to by an unelected and unaccountable elite in Brussels. They are tired of the wave of immigrants who do not assimilate and seem uninterested in becoming fully British. And they are tired of being called names for wishing to preserve what was handed down to them by previous generations who fought and died so their descendants might continue to enjoy the British way of life.

The main lesson for Britain and the U.S. is that the people, properly informed and engaged, don't have to put up with elitist big government whose leaders think they can run people's lives and who callously "import" immigrants from nations that do not have a democratic history, much less practice religious pluralism.

Even Queen Elizabeth II, who normally remains outwardly neutral on most political issues, appeared to step in on this one. According to Breitbart London reporter Liam Deacon, there are reports that the Queen "thinks European courts that protect Islamist hate preachers 'denigrate' Britain and has demanded that her dinner guests 'Give me three good reasons' to remain inside the European Union."

Already people are comparing former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who led the exit campaign and wants to succeed departing Prime Minister David Cameron, to Donald Trump. Trump had the good fortune and perfect timing to be in Scotland when the voting results were announced. His news conference was carried live throughout Europe and on U.S. cable news networks.

Like so many of the British, Trump supporters are sick of the elites dictating to them. They, too, want their country back and are also weary of the names they are called for wishing to preserve what was handed down to them at the price of blood, sweat and tears (to borrow from Winston Churchill).

Scottish separatists vow to hold another vote because their leader, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, wants to remain in the EU. But the die has been cast. I suspect the EU will eventually fall apart and the nations that currently comprise it could return to their previous borders and currencies, but it is to be hoped not their previous feuds. A status quo ante would be good news for Vladimir Putin, who has viewed a united Europe as an impediment to his plan to restore "greater Russia."

The main lesson for Britain and the U.S. is that the people, properly informed and engaged, don't have to put up with elitist big government whose leaders think they can run people's lives and who callously "import" immigrants from nations that do not have a democratic history, much less practice religious pluralism.

We can take back our countries and make them what the founders intended them to be. Britain is on the way to doing so, though the left will not give up easily, if at all. The other shoe may be about to drop in the U.S. this November.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.