How to talk about Brexit ‘divorce’

by Luke Lythgoe & Hugo Dixon | 27.10.2017

Brextremists think describing our departure from the EU as a “divorce” will advance their agenda. They want us to think the EU is a beastly former partner trying to screw us out of as much money as possible.

But this isn’t the right way of looking at our break-up. Yes, it could end up as a bitter divorce, if the headbangers get their way. But, if we are civilised, it could also be an  amicable separation. And given that we’re already starting to miss the EU’s warm embrace, we might even get back together.

We need to accept that we are the ones ending this relationship. We’ve not been driven out of the house by an abusive partner. No, the Brexit brigade just found monogamy too restrictive. They want to play the field. As some pro-Brexit economists put it, they want to have “polyamorous” trade deals.

So, if we are honourable, as we certainly should be, we now need to do the decent thing. That means paying child support or, in this analogy, paying for the commitments we made during our membership, maybe even many years after we’ve left.

That includes paying our share of public officials’ pensions. Those Brextremists who want us to walk away from our pension promises are little better than Robert Maxwell or Philip Green.

None of this means we should pay more than our fair share. But we should stop playing games with the money. One way to detoxify the whole issue – and unblock the deadlocked talks – would be to suggest it is settled through binding arbitration.

We also need to think about what future relationship we want with our former partner. Do we want a clean break or to keep cuddling up to it?

Theresa May hasn’t yet figured that out. Many Tories want to cut all ties. But the prime minister herself talks about a “deep and special partnership”. She wants to fight terrorism and crime together, do joint scientific research, stand shoulder to shoulder against Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and cooperate on culture and university exchanges. She’s acting like a partner who’s walked out then decided she misses family holidays, shared friends and snuggling on the sofa.

The prime minister also wants near damn full access to the EU’s vast single market – while still being free to cut our own trade deals and not be bound by Europe’s rules. That’s a bit like wanting all the pleasures of the marital bed while being free to have affairs. You can see why Brussels won’t put up with it.

Sometimes, during a divorce, couples realise they miss one another after all – and then move back in together. That’s also possible with Brexit as voters are starting to change their minds. But they need to get their skates on. It’s only 17 months until the decree absolute.

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5 Responses to “How to talk about Brexit ‘divorce’”

  • The extent of denial and delusion from these two is absolutely staggering.
    It’s been 16 months yet you still haven’t moved on from denial. Lads, it’s time to face reality.

    • The reality is that each passing month reveals a bit more of just what a terrible, catastrophic idea this is. You spend a lot of time on the floor if that staggers you.


  • Problem is, what is happening about the kids? Father is taking them off with him on his gallivanting travels. They are not remaining securely with mum, as is the norm. But they will reach their own conclusions about his behaviour, when they are old enough to vote.