Who will the Brexiteers blame when the milk and honey fails to flow? | Rafael Behr

There is a question that was never put to the leaders of the campaign for Brexit and has not, as far as I’m aware, been put to the prime minister since her conversion to the cause. It is this: what will you do on the morning of formal separation from the EU that you could not have done the day before?

What restored freedom, what action hitherto proscribed by the tyrannical bureaucrats of Brussels, will you indulge as the sparkling English wine is uncorked? Bend a banana, perhaps. Or catch the Eurostar to Paris and savour the sensation of no longer having the automatic right to work there. Oh! Pleasant exercise of hope and joy! … Bliss it will be in that dawn to be alive. Right?

Brexit enthusiasts will complain that my question is unfair. Objections to EU membership were all about democracy, sovereignty and long-term economic opportunity: not pleasures that can be consumed overnight. And while that might be so, it is also true that people tend to vote for things in expectation of tangible benefits. A weekly dividend of £350m for the NHS, for example. So the unlikelihood of quick gratification for leave voters is a problem.

Theresa May identifies a deeper imperative to Brexit than was written on the referendum ballot paper. She hears a collective cry of rage against the economic and political status quo, requiring radical change on multiple fronts. So, in parallel with the prime minister’s plan for a “clean break” from the rest of Europe, Downing Street is…


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