It occurred to me the other day as I was thinking about Brexit (as I often am) that Brexit is not unlike a case of mid-life crisis.
Britain, everyone’s favourite former imperial power, had been in a marriage for some time now, from which the spark had gone out. It is a problem that probably occurs in many marriages. And most married people will probably suffer a bout of existential angst, before deciding that on reflection sticking with a secure, comfortable (if no-longer-sexy) marriage is probably preferable to casting oneself once more upon the world of dating, with the risk of rejection, loneliness and dying alone being chewed by Alsatians, while the rest of the family gets on with their lives.
The UK is the husband who, in his forties, flexes his saggy pecs in the mirror and says to himself “you know what, I’ve still got it”, and then ditches his wife and family, buys a leather jacket, and starts hanging out in dodgy bars in the hope of picking up a younger model.
“I’ve wasted the best years of my life on you,” says Britain to the EU. “Trump, Duterte and King Salman of Saudi Arabia still think I’m attractive, and they’re way sexier than you, so you can take this marriage and shove it!” Britain then straddles its motorbike and zooms off into the desert with King Salman on the back seat, whispering sweet nothings into its ear.
It remains to be seen how this solo gambit will pan out. But the UK might well be warned that just because someone has their hand down your trousers doesn’t mean that they’re marriage material.
Following the established pattern, the UK quickly starts looking up its former flames in the hope of rekindling what, through the prism of nostalgia, seem like the missed opportunities of the past. To this end, Philip Hammond went off to Southeast Asia to try to convince India that what we had in the past was really good, baby, and we can have it all again if you want it. We can call it Empire 2.0, I mean True Love 2.0, I mean Global Britain. We can have the strong and stable relationship we never had.
Needless to say, India told him where to go. India had moved on with its life.
And so the quest for new romances continues. Maybe the UK just hasn’t been hanging out in the right bars yet. Nobody said it would be easy, right? But true love is surely just around the corner…
The only hope is that, when the UK comes grovelling back, bruised and humiliated by its unrequited romantic advances, the EU is prepared to give us a second chance.