The tragedy of last week's Brexit vote turned to farce over the weekend when it became clear that the politicians who had campaigned for and against the United Kingdom leaving the European Union had no idea what to do if the Leave side actually won.
Boris Johnson, one of the most vocal leaders of the anti-Europe side, made the hypocritical claim in a column in a London newspaper on Sunday that "Britain is a part of Europe, and always will be." What's the rush to leave? he added, as if he hadn't made Brexit seem like an urgent matter while campaigning.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum and led the Remain side to defeat, stood in Parliament on Monday and vowed that this unexpected calamity would be self-inflicted in an orderly English fashion, with proper timetables and cabinet committees and good old British pluck.
Outside Parliament, in the real world, the pound hit a 31-year low, Standard & Poor's lowered the nation's credit rating, investors unloaded British stocks and the financial companies that have made London their home since the U.K. joined the EU started making their own exit plans.
But here's the really funny part. Mr. Johnson does, in fact, seem to have a solution to the damage caused by the Brexit vote: Join the EU! He and others in the Leave campaign now promise that Brits will somehow always be able to live and work in Europe, and U.K. companies will always have access to the common market.
It's a pipe dream, of course, at least on the terms demanded by Leavers like Mr. Johnson. You can't have free trade and free movement of labour unless you pay EU dues and allow workers from member nations to settle in your country, too – the two inviolate EU membership conditions that Brexiters hate the most.
But Mr. Cameron is also hinting some kind of deal is possible. So is the EU. Neither is in a hurry to see the U.K. invoke article 50, the clause that sets off a two-year negotiation leading to Brexit. The leading member nations – Germany, France, Italy – publicly insist there will be no negotiations until article 50 is invoked. But that doesn't mean officials can't meet informally behind the scenes.
Could it be that the process to keep the U.K. in the EU is already under way? Let's hope so. There is no rule, written or unwritten, that says Great Britain couldn't hold another referendum, this one based on a pre-negotiated deal with the EU that made it clear what voters were choosing. The day could still be saved.