The Worst Brexit Option, Except for All the Others

Why Theresa May’s Deal Is the Best Way Forward

EU and Union flags overlap during an anti-Brexit protest opposite the Houses of Parliament in London, December 2018.  Toby Melville / REUTERS

“Omnishambles”—that wonderful British neologism first coined in the BBC political satire The Thick of It—is the best way to describe the current British political situation. Pretty much all British media coverage of the Brexit process uses the term to describe a situation of total chaos, which in the television series often prevailed in the inner workings of a fictitious British government. The tragedy in Prime Minister Theresa May’s dogged pursuit of her Brexit deal is that fiction has become reality.

By seeking to stake out a middle ground in British politics with a carefully balanced strategy to leave the European Union, May ended up dissatisfying everyone. Her deal tries to achieve a Brexit that keeps ties to the EU close enough to avoid too much economic damage. That strategy comes at the price of ceding significant future powers over British economic policymaking to the EU. The Leavers scream betrayal and lament that the plan falls short of taking back control of borders, laws, and money. The Remainers point out that her Brexit in Name Only (BINO) is vastly inferior to the United Kingdom’s current membership status that gives the country both a seat at the table and important opt-outs, not least from the single currency and the Schengen borderless travel zone.

The fact is that any deal with the European Union that could achieve an orderly Brexit was always going to expose the lies of the Leave campaign. Many so-called Brexiteers never understood the basic difference between a free trade area, a customs union, and a common market. “Frictionless trade” can only happen in a combination of the latter two. Leaving the common market and the customs union was always going to introduce a border and all kinds of new frictions. But the 2016 referendum campaign was largely fought over emotionally charged issues such as immigration and a nostalgic longing for lost imperial splendor. The Remain campaign could never agree on a positive message expressing why the United

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