Boris Johnson has ‘got Brexit done’. With a deal that will please no one | Martin Kettle

Britain leaves the EU with its sovereignty compromised, its economy weakened – and its leader walking a tightrope

Brexit was never fundamentally an economic project. It was always more about what it said on the ballot paper in 2016. Brexit was about ceasing to be a member of the European Union. Leavers understood that. Remainers, in contrast, still struggle with it. To a lot of remainers, Brexit had to be a proxy for something else: anti-immigrant feeling, maybe, economic disempowerment, or post-imperial nostalgia. Those issues were not irrelevant to Brexit, but they were never the main point.

Leaving the EU was an emotionally charged political proposition, not an economic one. It was a desire rooted in a vision of British sovereignty richly marinaded in a heady mix of nostalgia and bogus victimhood, fanned by Britain’s media, and which made the enormous error of confusing sovereignty with power. The reality of that error will come home to roost in the months and years ahead. But Brexit was never about the price of potatoes or cars. In the end, it wasn’t even about standing up for Britain’s one genuine shared diplomatic triumph of recent decades, the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

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