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Brexit and Broken Promises

Leaving the EU Without Consequences Was Always a Fantasy

British Prime Minister Theresa May holds a news conference at Downing Street in London, November 2018. Ian Volger / Pool via REUTERS

The United Kingdom embraced a political fantasy in June 2016, when a slight majority of Brexit referendum participants voted for the country to leave the European Union. This was already apparent to some at the time. Not long after the vote, for example, pro-Brexit campaigners were forced to walk back claims that leaving the EU would free up 350 million pounds a week for spending on the National Health Service—which is now facing huge staff shortages, partly as a result of the limits on immigration that Brexit was designed to reinforce. But now that the terms of the Brexit agreement have been released, the scale of that fantasy is readily apparent to all. 

WHEN FANTASY MEETS REALITY

Brexiteers campaigned on the prospect that the United Kingdom could retain most of the advantages of remaining in the European single market, which allows for free trade in goods and services across the continent, without paying into the

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