The ‘will of the people’ on Brexit was not fixed for all time in June 2016

They have only one argument left. Back in the spring of 2016, the Brexiteers were promising sunshine and riches, untrammelled sovereignty and £350m a week: all the ice-cream of EU membership and none of the spinach. We would head out into the world and recover our destiny as a global trading nation, with more money in our pockets and independence in our hearts. You don’t hear much of that kind of talk these days, not when Airbus warns it could pull out of the UK – taking its 125,000 direct and indirect jobs with it – Sony relocates its European HQ from London to Amsterdam, and the carmaker Bentley says baldly: “It’s Brexit that’s the killer.” Instead the pro-leave case now boils down to one argument: it may be rough – “We won’t be able to get certain foods like bananas or tomatoes,” in the words of one senior Brexiteer, confident our Blitz spirit will get us through the coming storm – but we have to do it. We have no choice. It is the will of the people, and that will must be done.

What we don’t talk about when we only talk about Brexit

One of Brexit’s more pernicious aspects, even before you get to its actual flaws, is its tendency to suck all available oxygen unto itself, to drain resources that might otherwise have gone elsewhere. Before the referendum, civil servants warned that such a task – untangling 40 years of legal agreements, ripping out a delicate web of connections that had become embedded – would consume all their energies. Naturally, their warnings were dismissed as Project Fear. But even the head of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings, before he took on the form of Benedict Cumberbatch, conceded via Twitter that leaving the European Union would present the British state with the “hardest job since beating Nazis”.