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The Appalling Failure of Brexit

As the reality of Brexit sinks in, members of Britain’s cabinet and leading Brexiteers have turned on one another, while attempting to cast blame on everyone but themselves. The UK must plunge ahead, they insist, because that was “the will of the people," while they prepare their excuses for the impending debacle.

LONDON – It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road, or even into the long grass.

This is somewhat surprising. Apparently, none of the politicians and newspaper editors who plotted for years to get the UK out of the EU thought much about what would happen if their machinations succeeded. They have been unable to agree even on whether the UK should pursue a “soft” Brexit, with the UK remaining closely connected to European markets, or a “hard” Brexit that severs ties without regard for the economic impact.

Some ardent Brexiteers claimed that leaving the EU would be as easy as falling off a log. Our European partners, they suggested, need us much more than we need them: Germany is desperate to sell us cars, Italy to sell us Prosecco, the French to sell us Camembert. They could not have been more wrong. In truth, the UK depends far more on selling to Europe, which accounts for about half of British exports, than Europe does on selling to the UK.

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