The fastest route to applying some kind of damage control, once they start negotiating (in July or in a few months time?), might be to go for putting Britain inside the EEA sphere, like Norway and Iceland. A kind of margin "quarter-member status". But it would really mean most of the supposed goals of the Brexit campaign - taking back a firmer control of what laws apply in the UK, cutting red tape, stopping free movement of people with Europe - would effectively vapourize. Norway is a rich country because of its oil fields, but it still has to accept a lot of what the EU decide about trade and economy, without much of a chance to pitch its own demands. If they pushed their feet into the ground and made definite demands, the EU would just be able to threaten cutting down on their EEA status and the trade agreements they are enjoying. Plus the UK, as an EEA but non-EU country, would still be paying most or all of its EU membership fee, but getting no investments, no support in return. That would be a real nail in the eye to Farage, Boris and most people from the Brexit campaign.
I believe that it's been said by EU officials that this is very unlike to happen, if not entirely ruled out at this point. The problem is that if this referendum ends up only having the one consequence that the UK "Takes back control" of it's laws and such, then a dozen other countries are going to start replicating it, and the EU will break regardless. If the UK really wants out, it has to accept the consequences of this decision and get out, or they can choose to stay in and be a member on the same terms as other member countries, and help shape upcoming EU-reforms that will solve of the perceived problems with the EU as it is now.
Special treatment really isn't much of an option, and as others have pointed out in this thread (At least I seem to remember that it was pointed out at some point) Norway is still bound by the majority of the same rules and laws as other EU countries.
It seems like the issue people have with the EU is that it's leadership is too centralized and has too much authority, and yet people also want the EU as an organization to take full responsibility for anything bad happening in a member state. It's like people are asking for the EU to actively just be
a scapegoat, as they want them to be responsible and keep everyone safe and happy while not making any executive decisions on anyone's behalf, which is never going to work out. It's like asking the centralized government of the U.S.A. to not make laws on behalf of individual states and uphold the constitution, but still accept full responsibility of any negative event whilst powerless to do anything about it.
I think it's very important that members of the EU retain their individual cultural identity, and I think it's slightly hyperbolic to imagine a "United States of Europe". Such a thing would hardly be possible, and it would be inherently undemocratic as smaller countries would stand to have less authority than larger ones, making full cooperation almost impossible. And would everyone have to be taught English or German as a first language, with their own being secondary? The political micro-management of such an undertaking would be beyond anyone, especially with nationalism and right-wing tendencies on the rise. But if we want to be progressive and move forwards then we have to work together on a global scale. We have to accept that we can't keep clinging to all
our values for all eternity, and eventually we will all have to give a little in order to take a little. We're probably never going to be all the same, but we need to work on the radical barriers between cultures and accept that some people and some regions don't think or feel the way we do.
Or maybe that's all just me and I certainly won't claim to be an expert
of any kind. I just think we need more
cooperation and teamwork to overcome the problems we're facing, not less. I think we need to be careful with decisions like the one the UK just made. It might end up going well or it might turn out to be a catastrophe, we can't really do anything but guess and look at predictions right now. I'm sure a lot of people are hoping it goes wrong just so that they can have their "Told you so!"-moment, but I don't think that's a healthy attitude.
If one thing
worries me about the UK right now.. It would probably have to be the very public presence of people like Boris Johnson who frankly seems to have little to no idea what he's doing. I don't think the comparison to Donald Trump is entirely unjustified.
I hope this wasn't too sentimental?