Brexit Musings (31) – The Withdrawal Deal: Divorce Or Funeral?

In a divorce, there are always children who suffer. At a funeral, there are always those who are left alone.


It’s quite ironic that for over 40 years, the EU and UK have been constantly bickering, with the UK acting like a spoiled cat who doesn’t know whether to go outside or stay indoors. The withdrawal agreement that was signed in Brussels marks one of the few times when the two have actually quickly signed a document on a friendly basis. Yes, it does come after months of bickering, but the actual EU summit was quick and painless. Ironically, though, the agreement concerns the UK’s departure from the EU, and not the restitution of a handful of euro’s.

It was a somber day, according to EU leaders. Not because they are losing a friend, but because they are losing their second largest economy and, in today’s world, the wallet hurts much more than the heart. But we must give Theresa May credit where credit’s due. Here is a prime minister who stuck to a task that she hardly believes in, managed to get the Brexit deal accepted by a reluctant cabinet, signed by a saddened EU, and didn’t even shed a tear in the process. When asked by a journalist if she shared the sadness expressed by the EU, she answered, “No, but I recognise that others do,” in a tone of self-control and stoicism that only an English woman with a stiff upper lip could show – unless, of course, that wasn’t water she was drinking. Be that as it may, all that remains is that the deal be passed by a majority of Westminster MP’s who either hate the 500-page document, or who haven’t read it.

In a divorce, there are always children who suffer. At a funeral, there are always those who are left alone. I feel a bit of both. The UK that I still love is leaving. She should have stayed in the EU and changed the European institutions from the inside, because kicking down the EU door is certainly not the political answer to the UK’s philosophical dream. I feel as though an old school friend is leaving my town to live far away. He is not disappearing but our relationship will never be the same again. Yes, I admit, there were times when we had our quarrels. How can I forget the never-ending strikes that forced me to do my school homework in candlelight, when I was a teenager? How can I forget the same strikes that forced me to queue for hours in the cold December rain, in order to buy a loaf of bread? Nevertheless, I shall sorely miss him.

I’m happy in the Netherlands, a tolerant and strike-free land. But my roots remain very much English and French. I became an adult listening to the music of the Beatles, and watching the wonderful films of François Truffaut. I, like many, grew up having a double-identity, and have now a son who has a third. It’s a pan-European identity that knows no borders whilst, at the same time, remaining firmly attached to its roots.

What saddens me, contrary to Mrs May, is that in a few years time, the UK will be populated by thousands of young people who will be deprived of acquiring a pan-European identity, and will not have had the opportunities that I have had.

Let’s just hope that the EU doesn’t completely close its doors, so that, one day, the spoiled cat may still come back inside, and curl up in its basket, by the warmth of the open fireplace.