The announcement of the right royal wedding earlier this week coincides with the end of the preliminary Brexit negotiations, hopefully, which will be concluded by the start of the European Council meeting in December. I thought it might be fun for interested negotiators to consider the real meaning of some of the most common jargon we have heard from both sides of the EU negotiating table in terms of marriage and divorce.
We start with Brexit means Brexit which is as meaningful as saying that Marriage means Divorce, although amazingly in EU-speak that is exactly what it does mean. The Brexit Divorce Bill turns out not to be about Divorce, but is actually a Prenuptial agreement which has to be reached before the UK and the EU can enter into a prospective marriage based on a Deep and Special Relationship anchored on Trade and Security issues, and that we will be Stronger Together as a result. The UK has said that following the separation, or as we call it the wedding, which is expected to be in March 2019, we will Honour our Commitments, although we have actually promised to do this only until 2020, after which UK honour may become a scarce commodity. The EU has been coy about the courtship process, requiring an undefined Sufficient Progress before even negotiations of the wedding arrangements can be contemplated. Whether Upstairs Outside (which may be where the UK will spend the rest of the century) would meet the EU definition of Sufficient Progress is hard to say
There has been much confusion about the difference between Hard Brexit and Soft Brexit. These options are not to be confused with a Hard Border and a Soft Border, although to assist the parties after the marriage/divorce, in both cases, a comparison with eggs might help. The main effect of Hard-boiling eggs is that one part becomes clearly distinguishable from the other part, whilst the effect of Soft boiling eggs is that they are wobbly and fairly useless unless soldiers are involved.
Transitional Arrangements after the marriage/divorce will allow both sides to pretend that nothing has changed, although in truth the UK has gone on record to admit that immediately after the wedding/divorce they will enter a period of rampant promiscuity with just about any partner interested in doing a deal with them. If the Transitional Arrangements work well no-one will notice when they are over.
Those with experience of marriage/divorce understand that Nothing is Agreed until Everything is Agreed. At the current rate of courtship progress, it would surprise no-one if by March 2019 nothing had been agreed. We don’t know what will happen then. If we assume that No Deal is better than a Bad Deal then neither party will have achieved their goal of the Best Possible Deal or any deal at all. In this case, the marriage/divorce might not take place, notwithstanding that Article 50, which apparently is slang used by John Lewis Partners for an excessively long Wedding Gift List, has been triggered.
We send Prince Harry and Miss Meghan Markle our congratulations and best wishes for a happy future together, and we hope it is even longer lasting than that between the EU and the UK.