There are people who were influential in attempting to make the UK leave the EU. Some of them have gone. Some of them were significant influences.

Now that Nigel Farage and Dominic Cummings (BBC link) have gone away/are leaving the scene, given that Boris Johnson was on the fence over Brexit just before he wrote his first (or at least an early) article about it to potentially position himself for more power in the time of David Cameron being prime minister, and that the EU have said, essentially, that we could pretend it never happened, could it be that Brexit could be eliminated?

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    The Brexit referendum and 'two articles' moment were during Cameron's time as PM. May took over after Cameron resigned when Boris refused to take on the job. See here for more.
    – Jontia
    Nov 15, 2020 at 8:22
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    @Jontia Thank you for the correction and the rabbit-hole link. Nov 15, 2020 at 10:09
  • It's impossible for the UK to "remain in the EU" because it has already ceased to be a member state of the EU. It can only rejoin anew, or remain in some closer relationship (along the lines of EEA states or Switzerland) than is currently anticipated.
    – phoog
    Nov 16, 2020 at 1:54

2 Answers 2


The UK cannot remain in the EU because it left. If it was to reapply for membership, all the usual conditions would apply. The UK would be well placed on economic and regulatory convergence and things like that, but it would have to accept the EU rules without some of the traditional opt-outs. At least that is the theory.

As the linked article put it, there are no remainers any more, only rejoiners.

In practice, perhaps the EU might let the UK back in on the status quo ante basis. After all, it is EU rules which decide how an applicant can join and the EU can change them if they want. But I seriously doubt that that could be done before January. Any one EU member state would have a veto, and quite a lot of people on "the continent" don't want to get to the permanent squabbling and threats to leave.

  • A trade deal with the UK gives the EU all it wants from the UK without needing to give the UK what it so casually threw away : political influence of EU policy and law (and a veto !). Bizarre that the UK still seems not to understand they have thrown away so valuable an asset by leaving. Nov 15, 2020 at 11:40
  • This the correct answer, the UK is no longer part of the EU. It would have to rejoin. Nov 15, 2020 at 16:06
  • @DaveGremlin, with the qualifier that the EU27+UK make the rules on Brexit. If they were to agree, they could agree on just about anything.
    – o.m.
    Nov 15, 2020 at 16:58
  • @o.m. The EU27 currently can't even agree on a budget or the rule of law, and while the UK government could apply to rejoin, they would have to throw away the results of the 2016 referendum. Both of these are possible but as improbable as Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson deciding to get married. bbc.com/news/world-europe-54964858 Nov 17, 2020 at 13:25

I think it would involve far too much of a loss-of-face to do such a u-turn (especially after this government already has such a reputation for u-turns).

If it were to happen it would first involve having to hold another referendum - though one which I believe Remainers would win.

What is far more likely, I sense, is that with Cummings gone, and Biden in the White House, the PM is preparing the ground to accept an EU deal. If that goes through it preserves many of the important features of EU membership - single market, customs union etc - though without any influence in setting rules etc.

In the longer term, perhaps after a change of government, I believe there will be another referendum, when a younger demographic will be convinced that Britain's only sensible long-term possibility is part of a federal Europe.

Many will see the present good news as being that the nationalist populism of the Trump era as being on the wane. And that if developed western society is going to hold its own in a world where countries like China, India, Russia and Brazil are major players, it will be vital for there to be a close alignment between America and the EU.

  • A hopeful and optimistic outlook. Given the crowing around removing free movement such a deal is unlikely. My pessimism says the gov. is more likely to us this change to push through a no deal and try to shovel the blame onto departed figures.
    – Jontia
    Nov 15, 2020 at 8:15
  • @Jontia Well, "no-deal" will present big problems for the government. I can't think that its mood right now is to brace itself for catastrophic headlines, more difficultiy in fighting off another Scottish referendum, and possible "border poll" in N. Ireland. And all that while getting no support from Washsington. I'm not sure who the "departed figures" are, but the whole thing would put BJ in the eye of the storm as clearly the person who had been with the scheme from start to finish. One advantage might be that it would provide the groundswell for a complete reversal of Brexit.
    – WS2
    Nov 15, 2020 at 8:39
  • Departed figures would be Cummings in this instance as per the question. As for the rest that's been the case since 2016. But it hasn't made any difference, the latest being the Internal Market Bill written to undo the Withdrawal Agreement reached less than a year ago.
    – Jontia
    Nov 15, 2020 at 9:20
  • It is known that Carrie Symonds (Boris Johnston's fiancée, and the mother of his youngest child) had a disagreement with Dominic Cummings over the attempted promotion of Lee Cains from Director of Communications to Chief of Staff. gu.com/p/fevhv (and linked articles). Cain resigned his post just before he was promoted. gu.com/p/fdke5 It is generally accepted that Cummings was going to leave in early 2021, and Johnston wouldn't be far behind - speculation on the reasons for this are beyond this question though
    – CSM
    Nov 15, 2020 at 10:09
  • I do wonder if a future US-EU trade deal would sideline the UK and be an influence in favour of rejoining. Nov 15, 2020 at 10:24

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