Leaving would be easy some politicians said; there would be new trade deals with the United States and China as well as with the Commonwealth.
Ministers spoke eloquently about re-establishing old ties with Commonwealth countries.
This showed the triumph of naive hope over experience – based on the misguided assumption that the Commonwealth countries were eager to forge new ties with Britain – instead of strengthening ties with the EU, the world’s second-largest economy.
Like a divorcee on the rebound Britain is now desperately seeking to woo its old flame the Commonwealth – even as its 51 other member states are not exactly sure what Britain wants and whether Britain is what they need.
They have all gone their separate ways.
Canada for example is keen to protect the North American free trade agreement which US President Donald Trump wants to revise, if not tear up.
Australia and New Zealand have long seen their future in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.
India is growing but wishes to be seen as a major power at the head table and would not wish to jeopardise its ongoing negotiations for a trade agreement with the EU for a pact with the UK.
British politicians are going to find it hard navigating fresh agreements with dozens of countries and rewriting many laws.
Resurrecting relationships with the former colonies is not going to be easy.
Many in Britain feel nostalgic looking back to empire; those in the former colonies don’t always carry such happy memories.