I remember my last break up. Things were getting tense between us. We would have flare-ups. At times, frustrations boiled over. Tempers exploded on both sides.
We decided to separate. We never really did get on. Of course we had to agree on what was mine and what was not and the divorce settlement was a little more than what I would have liked.
At first we wouldn’t speak. But you know what? Now we have accepted the inevitable, we are starting to become friends though I know we will never be intimate again.
Ending a relationship is messy, but once the initial arguments over the CD collection – or in the UK’s case, frictionless trade – are settled, there follows an admission of the new relationship
My break-up from the European Union has been a real rollercoaster.
As my colleagues in the Cabinet are finding out, taking your country out of a political union can be as acrimonious and testy as any marriage break-up.
Instead of fighting over the custody of the much loved pet dog, we’re battling for custody of Northern Ireland. And while alimony payments for most separations are in the thousands, the UK’s divorce payment to the EU will likely amount to tens of billions.
Ending a relationship is messy, but once the initial arguments over the CD collection – or in the UK’s case, frictionless trade – are settled, there follows an admission of the new relationship.
In some cases, the acceptance of this new dynamic can eventually evolve into a mutual respect and friendship – if not love.
Under the right conditions, post-divorce friendships can be healthier and more cohesive than what came before. This is where the UK and the EU may be heading. At least I hope so. The initial indications are good.
The latest EU summit has shown that a new bond is forming between the UK and the EU27. From bitter arguments last year over the divorce bill, to cooperation over Russia and Trump’s steel tariffs last week.
As the reality of our exit from the EU is sinking in across the continent, there is an understanding that the while the UK may be withdrawing from the political institutions of the EU, it will not shirk from confronting the shared threats we all face.
The EU’s response to the chemical weapons attack on Salisbury, offers a glimpse of how strong our post-Brexit relations can be.
The common interests of EU member states and the UK converge with great frequency, and no more so than on issues of security
Not only have EU member states expressed notions of solidarity, many have also backed these words with action. A number of European countries, including France, Germany and Poland, are currently in the process of expelling Russian diplomats from their embassies in response.
In comparison to Juncker’s recent words of support for Putin, European Council President Donald Tusk has stood firm with Britain and said that “despite the tough Brexit negotiations, the European Union has demonstrated unanimous and unequivocal unity with the UK in the face of this attack”.
All sides understand that whatever our differences, they pale in comparison to the security threats we collectively face. As Theresa May herself said at the EU summit last week, “the threat that Russia poses respects no borders”.
The common interests of EU member states and the UK converge with great frequency, and no more so than on issues of security.
But the bonds between the UK and Europe stretch far deeper than mere pragmatism, however. We share with the nations of Europe a common history, and a collective commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
We maintain the pound, we drive on the left, and our electrical plugs are square and don’t fit in European round holes
Britain may have fallen out of love with the EU, if indeed there was any love there to begin with, but we remain very fond of Europe. Saying “we’ll still remain friends” is a classic break-up cliché, but in our case it could be true.
For decades, much energy has been expended on both sides of the Channel to maintain our bizarre part-in, part-out membership. Time and time again we have wrangled for opt-outs to preserve our sovereignty, while Brussels has had to make accommodations for us. We maintain the pound, we drive on the left, and our electrical plugs are square and don’t fit in European round holes.
But hey! Vive la difference!
The new UK-EU relationship can now focus on our many shared interests. We can work together towards our common goals, without having to row about things we’re never going to agree on.
The marriage just wasn’t working out, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be good friends.