Two men dressed as customs officers take part in a protest Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Into the Brexit Abyss

For the UK, anything short of complete separation from the EU would be akin to the situation in which France found itself after withdrawing from NATO’s military command in 1966. Until France reversed that decision in 2009, it remained bound by the constraints of other NATO members, but lacked any say in political or military decisions.

PARIS – I have a British friend who never travels without his Irish passport, at least not since June 2016, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. “Just in case,” he likes to say. “You never know what may happen.”

Ever since Brexit, the Irish passport has become something of an insurance policy against irrationality, and represents, for my friend at least, the possibility of retaining his European identity. If things turn out badly in London, he reasons, there is always Dublin.

Hedging has become a favored approach of those seeking to make sense of the British divorce from the EU. The agreement reached this month between UK and EU negotiators has only heightened the unease. On the one hand, that “breakthrough” set the stage for talks on the post-Brexit relationship trade to commence, seemingly making separation inevitable. On the other hand, there is a belief that nothing is set in stone, and that finality will come only after many thorny issues are resolved.