Leaver-In-Chief Boris Johnson has used his regular Daily Telegraph column to paint a rosy picture of Britain’s future post-Brexit. There won’t be any of that nasty EU red tape or freedom of movement. But hard-working Poles will be able to stay in the UK and dynamic British entrepreneurs will still have access to the EU single market. All the money the UK sends to Brussels? That can be spent on a better health service. And yes, Mark Carney and George Osborne are good, wise men with their hands firmly guiding the economy. Let’s not rush — everything will turn out fine. In fact, it will be like a divorce in which the couple still live in the same house, do the washing up together, and even share the same bed. For the children, it will be the same as before, just somehow better.
Hang on a minute. Others will say this has all the plausibility of a fairy tale, a lullaby to put the children to sleep while the real slanging match goes on down below. Either that, or a dangerous case of British hubris and wishful thinking. The problem with divorce Boris-style is that there is another partner here who might not buy that arrangement. Can the EU really give Britain access to the single market without insisting that it signs up to freedom of movement, one of its most cherished principles? And why should Britain alone not have to pay into Brussels coffers or adhere to its regulations? If Britain were to get a deal like that, surely others would want the same? And one last point. Johnson writes that he believes that those who voted Leave were not mainly driven by anxieties about immigration. Sure, many weren’t, but quite a few were — and they won’t be happy if they don’t see actual change. At the risk of stretching the divorce metaphor too far, will UKIP’s Nigel Farage be the child who does not fall asleep and bursts into the kitchen in his pyjamas shouting: “But daddy — you promised!”