Since the Brexit negotiations began, the UK government has been accused of trying to have its cake and eat it too. It’s a fair judgment, given that Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and one of the country’s most well-known politicians, said that was precisely what the government’s policy was. Continuing with the culinary analogies, the European Union has consistently said that the UK cannot “cherry pick” the parts of the EU that it likes and leave the rest behind.
And while the EU is adamant about the indivisibility of its “four freedoms”—the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital—you can see why Johnson thought that both the having and eating of the cake would be available to the UK after it quit the bloc. Since its accession, the UK has had its cake, eaten it, and former prime minister David Cameron even managed to secure a last-ditch cherry as garnish a few months before the fateful Brexit referendum.
The thing is, the UK’s relationship to the EU already met many of Britain’s unique demands. The UK avoided important aspects of European integration, like joining the euro monetary union, but still enjoyed considerable influence in Brussels. That is now gone.