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It was the marriage of the century. John Bull and Europa were tying the knot. After hundreds of years of on/off romances and on/off tiffs, the two rivals had decided they were both better off as one household rather than as two feuding neighbours.

Let’s be honest, JB was the more reluctant of the two. For centuries he had been top dog, with conquests right across the globe. He didn’t just have a girl in every port, he owned the ports and the hinterlands beyond.

Unfortunately, two successive wars with Europa’s close relative Herr Hun had cost him dearly. JB could no longer afford to maintain his worldwide harem, many of whom were tiring of his attention anyway.

So, he jumped into the marital bed with Europa who had come up with the novel idea of stopping feuds between her troublesome family members by making them economically interdependent. Admitting JB to the select circle with a marriage contract was the coup de grace of years of complex wooing and negotiation.

For a while everything went swimmingly. There was a definite honeymoon period. But some of JB’s family were unhappy about the nuptials. Their heads told them that the family business could do better linked to Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Rome. But their hearts yearned to be sailing across the high seas, sledging through the Canadian Arctic or slashing their way through the jungles of Africa and South Asia.

They started a whispering campaign against the marriage in general and Europa in particular. She was greedy, corrupt, dictatorial, domineering, overpowering, undemocratic and, most of all, not British. The whispers grew to a debate. The debate grew to a row and finally John Bull decided to call the family together for a vote on whether or not to sue for divorce. There was a fierce campaign of misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies and finally, the family voted by a narrow majority for divorce.

Europa was shocked and hurt. She knew that some of JB’s family were upset with her, but she didn’t realise it was that bad. Besides, everyone knew that divorce would be an economic disaster for everyone. John Bull was actually on her side– mostly. But he was more concerned with stopping the family feud so he had promised to abide by the family decision. Divorce proceedings began. Now the difficult bits started.

The marriage had lasted for 43 years. There were thousands of Joint investments, pensions, agreements, property and family businesses to unravel and sort out. The Brextieers (that was the name given to the Brits who campaigned to exit from the marriage) had claimed during the campaign that divorce would be a simple matter. That Europa needed JB more than JB needed Europa. So John’s family would keep all their shares in the family; not have to recompense Europa and her family for any losses; maintain access to everything they wanted; leave everything they didn’t want and return to gallivanting and forming liaisons around the world.

“What,” screamed Europa. “You are the ones who want the divorce. I have done nothing. You have to pay your fair share of the bills we have run up together and if you are going to leave than you can’t have access to the sat nav system that I paid for. The same goes for all those other scientific experiments. Oh, and because I paid 90 percent of the cost of them, they are all moving to my new house so your family will be out of a job. On top of that, we aren’t going to let you disrupt the prosperity, security, and lives of our joint cousins the Irish. And, if you want to keep selling things to my family it will be on our terms. You are the one who wants out of this marriage. You pay the price.”

The Brexiteers said: “Fine. We will just walk out without a divorce settlement.”

“Great,” said Europa, “Then you walk out with nothing.”

It started to dawn on a growing number of JB’s family that divorce might not be such a good idea after all.

Tom Arms is editor of


1 Comment on "Observations of an Expat: The Divorce Settlement"

  1. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in our* philosophy.”

    I am not completely sure what Mr Speare and his Danish mouthpiece Hamlet were going on about here in the context of the play, but in the context of Europe, it is more than apt.

    The promise of Europe after the war, according to my father who served in intelligence and had a brief spell debriefing and giving medals to members of the French resistance, was one of friendship. Friends do not throw bricks at each other, so if we become friends, and make sure we are, as you point out, financially intertwined, then whatever else happens, the brick throwing should stop. And that has been quite true.

    What has gone wrong is not just simple, but probably predictable.

    We have forgotten the friendship part of the agreement, and the modern EU has too, though maybe less so. Friends might not spit in each other’s faces, but business partners do from time to time, and this divorce has been one almighty gob in the face of the rest of the EU.

    In the UK, the argument has been “Richer in or richer out,” the friendship idea having now been completely washed down the plug hole. And in many ways, it is reminiscent of what De Gaul said in 1967.

    He pointed out that membership of the EEC was “incompatible with the economy of Britain, with her chronic deficiency in balance of payments. It was also incompatible with the British tradition of obtaining cheap food from all parts of the world,” according to a Guardian article of the time:

    Boris, clutching his version of the divorce papers, would have approved. The main economic argument for this separation is that we can get all we need cheaper elsewhere so we don’t need Europe. Except, times have changed, and our formal Empire friends (?), are not always quite as friendly now. They desperately want to do deals, but the price might be a shock.

    Hamlet and Boris might have both looked out to the wider world, but was Hamlet the Dane as optimistic as Boris the Briton(and American)? There might be a lot out there, but will we like it when we find it?

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