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Britain, bruised and wary after months of lockdown, is reopening.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson triumphantly announced a major loosening of restrictions. Much of the country’s cultural and recreational life — pubs, cafes, museums, galleries, cinemas, hotels — will return on July 4, while the distance people are required to keep from one another will be reduced from two meters to one, or about three feet.

“Our long national hibernation,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson proclaimed, four years to the day since the Brexit referendum he did so much to sway, “is beginning to come to an end.”

The move is not in itself foolish. Other countries across Europe have done similarly, in some cases many weeks ago. But it comes after months of mismanagement marked by reversals, climb-downs and outright failures. Trust in the government has fallen precipitously, and Mr. Johnson’s approval ratings have plummeted.

Mr. Johnson was supposed to be the leader to “liberate” Britain, not to lock it down. When he was elected in December, his mandate was simple: “Get Brexit done.” But on Jan. 31, as Britain formally left the European Union, it quietly recorded its first two cases of Covid-19. The coronavirus, not Brexit, would define Mr. Johnson’s government.

The results speak for themselves. The virus has officially claimed nearly 43,000 lives in Britain — more than anywhere else in Europe — with the true number expected to be even higher. The country has one of the highest death tolls per capita from the coronavirus in the world.

Mr. Johnson and his cabinet have mishandled the pandemic, with devastating consequences. But as the death toll mounts, the dream of Brexit and its toxic legacy live on. The fantasies behind Brexit — of national captivity and liberation, confinement and freedom — have propelled Britain toward its current calamity.

In the fever dreams of many British Conservatives, the country has been in lockdown for decades. Long before the coronavirus forced everyone to shelter in place, they believed the entire country was a captive of the European Union, which wielded a power both arbitrary and pervasive over a once great sovereign state. Read More……..

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