Corbyn’s undergraduate socialism would be a poor fate for Europe’s second largest economy, its main financial centre, and a chief pillar of its defences. With the right leaders, Brexit will damage Britain needlessly, but not destroy it. The EU, wrestling with multiple political, economic and security crises, needs to come to better terms with this fact and with Mrs May. The EU will be weaker without the UK’s reforming drive which masterminded the single market, its competition policy, and a more open Brussels bureaucracy. As the EU becomes a lightning rod for populist discontent, there will be less reform and more statism. But a strong Britain and a strong EU will still need each other.
The UK is one of the world’s most open places, cosmopolitan on migration and liberal on foreign investment. Brexit revealed more opposition to that than anyone thought to ask. But the other Leaver faction are globalists. They are frequently, though unfairly, mocked as imperial nostalgists, and their free trade deals with the US, China, or Australia cannot offset what Britain could lose in Europe. But it’s in Australia’s deep interest that they win the arguments in post-Brexit Britain. A free trading Britain that’s a bulwark of Western security is by far the best result for this part of the world.
All outcomes are still possible. Crashing out with no deal. A softer Brexit which wins a parliamentary majority. A second referendum which Remain wins. But both could be by too narrow a margin to end the crisis in British politics or in EU-UK relations. Tuesday’s meaningful vote is just the start of long weeks to come.
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