May's Brexit Plan

Strategies for Leaving the EU

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks to the media outside number 10 Downing Street, July 13, 2016. Peter Nicholls / Reuters

On August 3, 1914, the night before the start of World War I, the British foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, famously remarked, “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, in which 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the European Union, many among the British electorate felt that the lights of economic integration had been extinguished and that dark times lay ahead for the United Kingdom.

The febrile, early post-referendum atmosphere in Westminster was infused with recriminations over the toxic referendum campaign and the divisions within the government. A basic negotiation principle is to have unity on your side, and this was sorely missing—an inauspicious basis for embarking on what will be the most important and complex negotiation in the country’s history.

But amid the tumult, there were some positive signs. A

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