Outside the EU, said Remainers, the UK would lose the benefits of free trade with neighbours and reduce its negotiating power with the rest of the world.
Brexiteers, meanwhile, said the UK could compensate for those disadvantages by establishing its own trade agreements - and that most small and medium-sized firms, which have never traded overseas, would be freed of the regulatory burden that comes with EU membership.
On 15 January 2019, Parliament overwhelmingly rejected the 585-page treaty by a record margin of 432 votes to 202.
Two further votes on the same agreement in March also saw May suffer heavy defeats.“The Tory backbenches loathed it. The opposition Labour Party opposed it,” says the US newspaper.
Or as The Washington Post puts it: “Brexit consumed all.
It dominated May’s headlines, debates, diplomacy, agenda.”After officially invoking the EU’s Article 50 in March 2017, May spent more than a year negotiating with her European counterparts for a withdrawal agreement, with a deal finally reached in late 2018.
In 2016, Britain paid in £13.1bn, but it also received £4.5bn worth of spending, said Full Fact, “so the UK’s net contribution was £8.5bn”.
What was harder to determine was whether the financial advantages of EU membership, such as free trade and inward investment, outweighed the upfront costs.
“Brexiteers said it would keep Britain forever shackled to the EU, in vassalage, as Johnson put it.
Remainers complained that it would introduce too much economic risk with too little reward.”In the end, the failure of May’s withdrawal agreement - along with throwing away the Tories’ majority in an ill-judged snap election in June 2017 - was her undoing.