Salvaging Brexit

The Right Way to Leave the EU

England expects: in Portsmouth, once a major shipbuilding port, November 2013. STEFAN WERMUTH / REUTERS

On June 30, a week after the British public voted to leave the EU, Theresa May gave a speech launching her candidacy for prime minister in which she declared, “Brexit means Brexit.” Her message was straightforward: even though she herself had supported remaining in the EU, she would not hesitate to implement the will of the voters. Yet months after assuming office, May has yet to answer crucial questions about what a British exit, or Brexit, would mean for trade, immigration, and financial services. It is still not at all obvious what Brexit will actually look like.

That’s because the referendum has confronted the government with two distinct but related problems: how to leave the EU as painlessly as possible and how to reverse the years of economic neglect that have divided the country. Solving each will require hard choices, and whatever the politicians decide, some of their supporters will

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