Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, was supposed to deliver a new EU global strategy in mid-June. She wisely waited until the week after the Brexit vote. Entitled”Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe”, the strategy might seem like a sad echo of “before”. In fact it holds a possible key to how the EU could evolve in a way that would allow Britain to remain a member and a force for a better and more innovative union. The most original part of the strategy is the discussion of “co-operative regional orders”. Regions are described as “complex webs of power, interaction and identity”, representing “critical spaces of governance in a decentred world”. They allow both “states and peoples” in regions to come together voluntarily to “project influence in world affairs”. Indeed, that rationale continues to motivate the EU, which is why it will make support for other regional orders a pillar of its global strategy. Consider the striking difference between this vision of the EU and its current depiction as a unified political order. As a regional organisation, the EU is phenomenally successful. It negotiates as one entity in global trade deals. It has captured the economic benefits of the world’s largest single market. It is a unified foreign policy player in critical global crises, such as the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme or global efforts to counter Isis. Where the EU is failing is as a federal state. Many of the EU’s federalist founders imagined a “United States of Europe” as the end point of European integration, a goal enshrined in the Preamble to the Treaty of Rome in 1957 as an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. One of the points that David Cameron won in his negotiation with the EU in February was to exempt Great Britain from that pledge. That concession opens the door to a conception of the EU that may be much better suited not only to Europe but to co-operative regional orders across the world. We must start by going back to the future. The nub of what is now the EU was the European Coal and Steel Community, created in a treaty signed in 1951 among the Benelux countries, Germany, France, and Italy. In 1957 those same countries created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community; those coexisted until 1992. Efforts to create a European Defence Community and a European Political Community in the 1950s failed, but Europe was envisioned and existed for decades as a community of communities. A regional organisation may be an actual union but still be composed of multiple overlapping communities of states. The members of each community must share sufficient common interests to drive towards shared goals. They can set decision rules among themselves to ensure effectiveness and direct engagement with their citizens. The EU already has multiple groupings, which it describes as “multi-speed Europe”. But “multi-speed” still envisions driving towards one common goal. Imagine instead a union that sees both multiplicity and unity as its end point. Communities would be comprised of countries that want to be tied together by a single currency because it benefits their citizens, that want to create a common border, or want to create common arrangements with countries outside the union. Each would be a voluntary arrangement to gain the benefits of unity while preserving diversity. The fundamental question for current EU members is whether all members of these multiple communities must simultaneously all be members of some common arrangements, such as a single market or a single foreign and defence community. In other words, does the option of membership in sub-communities rest on an irreducible core of obligations for all? The challenge for the Founding Fathers of the US was how to achieve democracy at scale. Debates in the Federalist Papers were all focused on how to harness the benefits of union across 13 states and an immense frontier, while ensuring that government served citizens rather than devolving into tyranny. The answer, after 70 years and a hideous civil war, was a federal state. The EU is trying to answer the modern version of that question: how to achieve the benefits of union among states that cannot thrive in a globalised world on their own, while maintaining political flexibility and linguistic and cultural identity of separate nations. In a world of nearly 200 states, regional orders will become increasingly essential. The EU should take Brexit as a catalyst to find a path towards effective union rather than ever closer union. It should see itself not as a failed US but as the world leader in creating a new political form: a regional co-operative order that provides unity and flexibility, an organism that can act simultaneously together and apart.