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What Happens to the United Kingdom Now?

Even after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the country will face years of talks in which it will be negotiating from a position of weakness. The UK will be less prosperous and influential than before, and will be under increasing internal strain because of policies driven by malignant English nationalism.

LONDON – The United Kingdom’s Brexit psychodrama continues. Although the UK government and the European Union reached a revised withdrawal agreement in mid-October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unable to push the deal through Parliament so that the UK could leave the bloc by his hoped-for date of October 31. EU leaders have therefore granted a further three-month extension of the Brexit deadline until January 31, and the UK will now hold a parliamentary election on December 12, which may help to resolve the current impasse. 

Johnson secured the withdrawal agreement partly by reversing his previous position and accepting a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and partly by settling for worse terms than his predecessor, Theresa May, had negotiated. Although the deal still must clear some parliamentary hurdles – and, here, the upcoming election could be the biggest hurdle of all – we may before long be able to see for ourselves how good or bad Brexit will turn out to be.

But perhaps I should revise the phrase “before long.” Assuming Brexit happens, if the first few years afterward are economically tough for the UK, Brexiteers will tell us that we should just give it time. In fact, one of Johnson’s senior ministers has said that we might not know the full economic impact of Brexit for 50 years. Between now and then, the results will need to be good to make up for what we are going to lose by leaving the EU.

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