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The Surreal Contest to Succeed Theresa May

Can Anyone Sort Out the Brexit Mess?

Johnson launches his campaign in London, June 2019 Henry Nicholls / REUTERS

In April 1916, a group of Irish Republicans took over much of the center of Dublin and declared independence. The British government reacted swiftly. It sent thousands of troops to restore order, and, once the rebellion had been crushed, executed its ringleaders. Although the Easter Rising failed to end British rule, it did succeed in reinvigorating the Irish independence movement, an effort that culminated in the Irish Free State six years later. A few months after the uprising, the poet W. B. Yeats wrote that things were “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”

In the wake of some of the worst election results it has ever experienced, the British Conservative Party, the country’s oldest and most successful political force, may be feeling as if it is trapped in Yeats’ poem. Nigel Farage’s upstart Brexit Party—a terrible beauty if ever there was one—humiliated the governing

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