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Who killed soft Brexit?

The mysterious story of how a split-down-the-middle nation killed off the chance to be half-in and half-out of Europe

Remember the referendum campaign? When we were told that leaving the European Union meant leaving its formal structures while maintaining a special trading relationship? When even Nigel Farage envisaged Brexit to mean a long period of continued membership of the single market? Or the months afterwards when ministers told us that the “easiest deal in human history” would mean the “exact same benefits” of frictionless trade as now, since we could “have our cake and eat it?”

Those days are long gone. After four years of unprecedented turbulence, marked by wrangling over everything from pet passports to fish, after two general elections and two changes of prime minister, the reality of Brexit is about to hit home when the transition finishes at the end of the year. And deal or no deal this autumn, the impact will be significant. We are facing what, by any measure, is a…

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