Dreaming the Impossible Dream, be it the Marxist “withering away of the state”, the Christian Millennium or, indeed, Brexit, brings with it a peculiar state of mind. The dreamers, while accepting that The Dream may not be realised immediately or perhaps ever, nonetheless try to approximate to their ideal in the mistaken belief that doing so is preferable to other alternatives. To borrow an analogy from Amartyr Sen, they are like a host who, knowing that a guest prefers white wine to red, pours the guest a glass of rosé when the white wine runs dry. He reasons that it is the best alternative as it is the closest to white wine that he has available. However, the host is then surprised when the guest rejects the wine, explaining that she hates rosé and, in the absence of white wine, would prefer red. In the Brexit debate, for rosé, substitute “the only deal of offer”. Because it would achieve some of the elements of a Brexit, like the UK ceasing to be a member of the EU, Mrs May argues it is more acceptable to Brexitiers and comes closer to keeping the referendum promise than were we to do nothing and simply stay in the EU. She seems unwilling even to consider that many Brexitiers may hate the ‘rosé’ she now has on offer and prefer to resort to the red wine of remain at least for the present, and not least because the process of producing the rosé has diluted the dominant characteristic of Brexit white wine, its sovereignty.
Another and more dangerous aspect of dreaming the Impossible Dream is that the dreamers can justify all manner of misbehaviour and inhumanity with the excuse that it is necessary in order to realise or come closer to the The Dream. In the case of the French Revolutionaries, The Dream justified oppression and mass murder in the cause of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. In Mrs May’s case, The Dream justifies rendering the UK a vassal state in the cause of perfect sovereignty. Indeed, it is a near iron rule of political history that not only is The Dream never realised but all attempts to achieve it result in behaviour that flatly contradicts the ideal that makes The Dream so alluring.