Brexit and the realities of power

Nice Guardian column by Rafael Behr:

We conspired to hold a referendum on leaving the EU without a serious conversation about what the EU even is, let alone what it does. Then, a year later, we got through a general election campaign with little mention of Europe at all. Another year has passed and, despite the urgency of the article 50 clock running out, politics still manages to distract itself with arguments other than the only one worth having, which is this: given what we now know about Brexit that we didn’t know then, should we still do it?

That is not the question on which May and Corbyn would dwell in a televised debate (regardless of the channel). It isn’t a question that troubles hardline Tory backbenchers running up and down Westminster corridors in pursuit of letters of no confidence in their leader. It isn’t a question that can be answered by publication of the attorney general’s legal advice on the withdrawal agreement, prised piecemeal by opposition parties from the clenched fist of government. That isn’t to say these things are unimportant. It matters if Geoffrey Cox QC advises that the Irish “backstop” is a trapdoor to perpetual regulatory subordination. But it matters only as confirmation of a structural downside to Brexit that we know already – the imbalance of power between a bloc of 27 states and one quitter.