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 EU coffers or abiding by its regulations. At the same time, they claimed, it could be negotiating free trade deals with other countries designed to advance British exports and lower the cost of its imports.