The British trajectory towards certain departure was sealed by a Conservative party leadership contest that demanded its victor signed up to full-blooded Brexit. But the failure was Europe’s too. At first reacting in disbelief, Europe then behaved as a partner scorned. Well, then – go, it said. But you can’t expect to keep the house and the car, and there’ll be a price for this selfish separation.
Just as Europe’s unwillingness to compromise had denied David Cameron the extent of renegotiation he needed, so costing him the referendum, it would deny the possibility of change after the vote. The smart move by Brussels after the result last June would have been to propose continuing membership for Britain while allowing us to check free movement. After all, we will now control our borders anyway. Better to do so inside the club than outside.
A different prime minister – perhaps Boris Johnson – with a different leader in Europe – Nicolas Sarkozy, perhaps – might have renegotiated after the referendum. Britain, already with the special status of being outside the eurozone, could perfectly well also have been apart from free movement too – able to control migration but otherwise a full member of the EU. The British people would have got what most of them wanted: to be in the market but in control of our borders.
If they’re idiots who cannot do the sensible thing then we should leave, right?