The future relationship may be still somewhere in the future, but the post-Brexit EU is already here — it took shape long before Brexit day as the Brits, for most practical purposes, made their exit ages ago.
When the EU wakes up Saturday morning and the U.K. is finally gone, it will be less a moment that marks threshold change, than an occasion to reflect on how the bloc has already adapted to its new reality.
Even as the Brexit process was hopelessly deadlocked in Westminster, Brussels was adjusting its postures on issues like enlargement, and security and defense — becoming more reluctant to accept new members (something Britain long championed) and displaying more openness to military cooperation (something Britain historically opposed).
There is also a new, if uncertain, balance-of-power, as a taut zipline between Paris and Berlin has replaced the triangle in which the Brits served as the overly apologizing mediator between the spend-happy French and the austere Germans.
As the U.K. pulled back, new coalitions of like-minded EU countries formed, for example, among the Netherlands, Ireland and the Nordics, to replace the British instinct for more liberal, mercantilist economic policies.
Breaking up is hard to do. Unless, of course, breaking up is what you have been doing for three years and 221 days, in which case, it rather becomes second nature.
But while the British departure created a clear opening for France’s more statist tendencies, Paris has not quite capitalized on it — in part, officials, said because French President Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, is personally more liberal-minded than many of his predecessors, and in part because Berlin,