For all the ‘sovereignty’ it has gained, post-Brexit Britain will be trapped in a future of permanent negotiation

After Brexit, Britain and the EU face the Gore Vidal trap. As the waspish American writer once said: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” There is now a powerful political logic pushing both sides to make the relative failure of the other the measure of their own success.

We have seen it already over Covid-19 vaccinations, with Boris Johnson boasting that Britain has done more than all the rest of Europe together. Gavin Williamson, Britain’s education secretary, took it to a juvenile extreme, claiming this is because “we’re a much better country than every single one of them”. What we might call “Vidalism” is baked into the Brexiteers’ project. After all, the whole point of the exercise is supposed to be that Britain will be “better off out”.

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