The government can avoid being ripped off by the EU, but the best deal the UK can hope for is to be first among outsiders
Once upon a time there was a creature called Brussels that ate national sovereignty. This monster had a special hunger for Britishness, feasting on the independence of that nation, while its neighbours were mysteriously undiminished. France never became less French, despite dwelling closer to the beast’s lair. Prime ministers were forced to pay tribute to Brussels. They defended themselves with magical red lines, but the monster was too powerful. It had to be slain.
That is the founding fable of Brexit, propagated by Eurosceptic journalists and politicians for years. At its core is the fallacy of “Europe” as something distinct from the UK; an extrinsic force over there, doing wicked things over here. In truth, Europe was part-British, as it was part-French and part-German. UK prime ministers wielded their share of the power that newspapers back home called “Brussels”. As a political entity and as a bureaucracy, Brussels was never just them. It was also us. A tragic irony of Brexit is that it risks turning our relationship with the EU into the unbalanced thing it was falsely said to be.