The fantasy was that Brexit would do the UK no economic harm. I’ve talked at length about why this was central to victory. Why most Leave voters were not willing to pay to reduce immigration because they thought reducing immigration would make them better off by improving access to public services. Why in reality the opposite is true. Will Jennings from Southampton University produced a nice chart which shows just how different the economic perceptions of Leave and Remain voters became.The fantasy was so powerful that it encompassed the perpetrators as well. David Davis, the secretary of state for leaving the EU, has said we can do a deal with the EU that would give us the exact same benefits as membership of the Single Market and customs union. He would not have given that pledge if he did not believe it. But anyone based in reality knows that when the EU say any deal must be costly for the UK, they are stating an inevitable truth. This is not punishment but survival: leaving has to involve a cost for the sake of preserving the remaining EU. This is why the leaked accounts of the May-Juncker supper worry so many. The fantasy that Brexiteers concocted to win the referendum has also taken hold of our political leaders.For ordinary voters, I can trace how the fantasy was created, and why it was believed. A key part of that analysis involves shielding voters from the experts (not just some experts, but pretty well any experts) who could have easily brought voters down to Earth. But a year after the vote, reality is beginning to win through. Leavers are beginning to see the costs of Brexit in the high street, and a clear majority now say they want to stay in the Single Market even though that means accepting free movement (here, p7). Yet our political leaders, who really should have been told what experts know, remain deluded about key aspects of the leaving process.
I think that the next time I meet a brexiteer who wants “more control and sovereignty and less immigration” I’ll say neutrally “Gosh, I’m impressed you’re prepared to pay so much for those things”.