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History will be kinder to May’s Brexit deal when Johnson’s version is done

Asking what would have happened had MPs swallowed the “backstop” takes you into a labyrinth of counterfactuals—but most roads lead to regret

By Rafael Behr  

Photo: Zhang Cheng/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

It is hard to pinpoint a precise moment when the pro-European cause in Britain was lost. Even after the referendum it was not a foregone conclusion that the result would be implemented in terms dictated by the most hardline anti-Brussels faction. There were plenty of junctions along the road from 2016 to the present predicament. But moderate Eurosceptics and ardent Remainers could not agree on an alternative destination.

Last summer, a pro-European cabinet minister in Theresa May’s government described the problem memorably in…

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