UK Prime Minister Theresa May
Credit: Raul Mee/Flickr

It must be a fun day to be a Russian intelligence officer, especially if you had anything to do with helping the British decide to exit the European Union. The Brexit vote is in heavy competition with the election of Donald Trump for the greatest Russian accomplishment in foreign policy since the successful conclusion of World War II. It has absolutely paralyzed the United Kingdom and will probably shortly bring down the government of Theresa May after having already destroyed David Cameron’s coalition.

The foreign secretary Boris Johnson resigned today. He follows Brexit Secretary David Davis, who announced his resignation yesterday, as well as his deputy Steve Baker. These men object that after two years of trying to figure out how to leave the European Union, the government is not making a strong enough separation. They fear that Britain will get the worst of both worlds, losing all the benefits of European integration without receiving the benefits of full autonomy. Parliament, in their minds, will be asked to sign away their right to set policy on some aspects of trade and immigration, while not becoming fully free of the obligations of the European court of justice.

It is likely that Prime Minister May will face a vote of no confidence which she may well not survive. So far, the Tories are acting like this crisis is survivable but the resignation of Johnson has not yet been fully digested. The revolt is coming from the so-called “Hard Brexiteers,” who seem to be having difficulty coming to terms with the troubles they have wrought. They have the legitimacy of the referendum for separation but little else to bolster their position.

And it’s easy to exaggerate the legitimacy of the Brexit vote in light of recent revelations:

Arron Banks, a British financier who bankrolled the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, has long bragged about his “boozy six-hour lunch” with the Russian ambassador eight months before the vote.

Some also wondered about Mr. Banks’s Russian-born wife and their custom license plate, X MI5 SPY, after the British intelligence agency, MI5. But Mr. Banks always laughed off questions about his ties to the Kremlin.

Now, a leaked record of some of Mr. Banks’s emails suggest that he and his closest adviser had a more engaged relationship with Russian diplomats than he has disclosed.

While Mr. Banks was spending more than eight million British pounds to promote a break with the European Union — an outcome the Russians eagerly hoped for — his contacts at the Russian Embassy in London were opening the door to at least three potentially lucrative investment opportunities in Russian-owned gold or diamond mines.

The United Kingdom so far feels obligated to honor the Brexit vote and leave the European Union by March 29, 2019. But the government evidently cannot figure out how to accomplish this goal without creating devastating consequences.

At some point, the commitment to Brexit should be scrapped. The Brits were trolled into voting for the destruction of their own country along with a weakening of European unity and power. It’s unseemly so see them writhing around trying to make lemonade out of these lemons.

And I say this as an American. We have been trolled, too, and in an even more complete and effective manner.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at