European disunion: ending a marriage

In a chapter I contributed to European Disunion: Between Sovereignty and Solidarity, published in 2012, I focused on Britain’s relationship to the European Union.  I used the analogy of a marriage: ‘… the UK can be characterised not so much as an awkward partner as a reluctant bride, delaying saying “yes” because her heart still yearned for others and unhappy in a domestic relationship that does not allow her to play the role she expected.’  The marriage has been one of convenience more than love and the relationship variously fraught, though so long as we have been in the marriage we have carried out our household obligations.

I think the analogy retains its utility now that we have served divorce papers.  In any marriage that has lasted more than forty years, a divorce can be messy.  Even if it were an amicable break, there would be the issue of what to do with the house and children (if any) and the assets acquired over that time.  Arguing over who gets what is not necessarily easy.  There is talk of a ‘clean break’ Brexit.  It is possible simply to walk away from a marriage, but that may mean that one side keeps the house and assets, but lose out on the alimony.

I think the analogy is valuable for drawing out the nature of what is entailed in leaving the EU.  It illustrates the problem of identifying what constitutes Brexit.  A divorce is a legal ending of a marriage, but the real tussle is over dividing the assets.  Divorce mean divorce. It remains a divorce whether amicable or acrimonious.  The amicable to acrimonious spectrum is a wide one.

I offer that as a possible aid to explaining the nature of Brexit, given that there is little else to assist, with no precedent to guide us.  I do so without prejudice to either side of the argument.  As I explained in a recent debate in the Lords, the discourse on Brexit is toxic and I associate myself with neither side.  There are proponents on each side that lack balance and self-awareness.  Being convinced that one is so obviously right and that one’s opponents are deluded does not always create a sound basis for persuading others to see the light.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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3 Responses to European disunion: ending a marriage

  1. Jonathan says:

    An unhappy spouse goes to see a counsellor and is warned how messy divorce can be, dividing the assets, deciding who gets the children and the house. It can become rather acrimonious. While a divorce is a simple legal process, the fact is neither side is going to get everything they want in the negotiations.

    The person understands all that, but ultimately still wants a divorce after weighing everything up. Everyone respects that, even if they do not really like the idea of divorce themselves.

    A second person goes to see a different counsellor. They are not sure they really like the idea of divorce. However, the counsellor says, “Nah, don’t listen to all that, it’s just ‘project fear’, perpetuated by people who don’t approve of divorce. Divorce is easy, it can be done in one sentence on a legal document; you’ll be able to get everything you want from your ex. Just get your solicitor to ask for exactly what you want. Piece of cake!”

    I rather think the second counsellor would be sacked, struck off, or whatever the process is for errant marriage guidance people.

  2. tizres says:

    My memory of the courtship is that de Gaulle was the awkward and reluctant bride; the UK was the suitor.

    Great speech re your link, particularly, “The claim that the House of Commons is “taking back control” can be utilised only in respect of procedure.”

  3. maud elwes says:

    From my point of view, no matter what came after the pretence of marriage, it was not legal from the offset. The contract of union was not consummated, which under law simply requires Annulment. As a result there are no children. Had there been issue via a surrogate, to fake union, they are now adults and long married, having moved abroad. They, as adults, are fully aware of the fraud and because of illegality know they are are, in fact, illegitimate and not of the same blood. Now, despising their tricksters, can’t bear contact, except to insist on being left freely to prosper at will and in peace.

    And Tizres,Ted Heath was no suitor. Simply a con man, who, along with conspirators, nicely set himself up for life

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