The narrative is by now tediously familiar. Remainers unreconciled to leaving the EU increasingly think that the public has turned against Brexit. Any piece of bad news is immediately blamed on a decision they still believe was driven by ignorance and lies. Many are biding their time, hoping that a Labour government will present an opportunity to return to the EU’s orbit. By targeting Boris Johnson, they intend that – as his political star fades – Brexit will also look to be, to all intents and purposes, over.
Clearly, much of the heat has now come out of the debate, with this week’s rebellion on the Windsor Framework smaller than many had expected. But the forces that drove the extraordinary referendum vote back in 2016 have not been quelled. Millions still live in frustration at an establishment incapable of reflecting their values. Despite the lassitude of ministers and regulators, the British economy is gradually beginning to diverge from the EU. Anger at out-of-control immigration reflects a basic consensus that the UK should have control of its own borders.
The problem is that Brexit no longer has a standard bearer, a politician able to champion the opportunities of life outside the EU and take on the miserablism of Rejoiners who still think Britain is incapable of governing itself.
Mr Johnson once held that role, but even when he was prime minister his government did little to fully embrace Brexit, preferring instead to transform Britain into a European-style social democracy. Perhaps he will again return to the fight – inside Parliament, or out. But this week he was not able to marshal more than a small number of MPs in opposition to Rishi Sunak’s deal.
Could, then, Mr Sunak be that cheerleader? Only a year after he entered Parliament, he took a big risk to come out in favour of Brexit, but has since made little of that advantage. In part, this reflects his general struggle to elucidate a clear political vision. But the Prime Minister has also developed a tendency towards caution, perhaps ill-suited to championing a project that by necessity is to some degree a leap of faith.
But if Mr Sunak is unwilling to take on that role, someone else certainly will be. Brexit was never just a problem to solve, or a process to follow. It is a generational project to remake Britain, bring government closer to the people, and end a debilitating culture of national decline. Let us hope the revolution is only just getting started.