How To Write It: A Brexit Breakup Note

The Prime Minister sits at her desk, which fits awkwardly, not like when she peered over it to banish Osborne.

She’s put it off till now, but really, she’s got to write it: her Brexit Breakup Note.

Larry, sensing the moment is not good, cowers from the leopard-print shoes with which he’s had his own ill-starred romance. He looks for somewhere to jump, but she banished all the sofas.

Jean-Claude, It’s not EU, it’s US: Fine far as it goes, but only five words in, she’s not sure whether to disclose the hand-holding in Washington, and how do you even start a letter in Luxembourgish?

Several minutes with Google offers some promising phrases: I’m from England, Goodbye, Sorry, Leave me alone. But what makes a good break-up letter?

There’s a copy of Debrett’s that came with the desk, ’88 High Street, Eton’ still visible on the inside, despite her best go with the eraser:

The letter need not be very long but should be handwritten on writing paper, well thought out and appropriate to the relationship.

Use your natural voice but avoid being overly emotional. The letter should be personal but concise.

If bespoke stationery is not possible, well-chosen writing paper and envelopes will show that you have taken some trouble.

Bespoke sounded a tiny touch like the Tory old guard; she wasn’t sure. But well-chosen paper: that offers options. There’s the acquis communitaire, the Treaty of Rome, the copy of the Maastricht treaty she’d had to stop Boris from playing rounders with; somewhere – she’d had her PPS dig for it – there’s the reverse side of De Gaulle’s ‘Non’.

You don’t invoke Article 50 every day, after all – a Prime Minister should be sure to hit the right memorable note of scornful gravitas.

And perhaps glance at a few of the truly great classics of the genre? Oscar’s to Bosie, Mary Wollstonecraft’s to Gilbert Imlay, John Lennon’s to Paul McCartney, Jordan to that cage fighter, they’re all Brits, give or take an Irishman.

‘Dear Bosie, Our ill-fated and most lamentable friendship has ended in ruin and public infamy for me. … My judgment forsook me, blindly I staggered as an ox into the shambles.’ This is good, but maybe not so much the natural voice for a clergyman’s daughter.

She turns to Wollstonecraft’s. ‘I am glad you are satisfied with your own conduct. I now solemnly assure you, that this is an eternal farewell. I part with you in peace.’ Promising, maybe one to crib from, but then she realises she’s mixed her up with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein would have been hugely fun to work in. A top-flight monster, after all, and even sounds German.

Three laps of the office, in a Frankenstein shuffle and her best Merkel impersonation, and it was time to continue. ‘Dear Linda and Paul, I was reading your letter and wondering what middle aged cranky Beatle fan wrote it.’ She reads it through, toys with borrowing either ‘all the petty sh*t that came from your insane family’ or, conciser, ‘F***ing hell, Linda.’ Then she puts it down, and realises why she doesn’t like modern music.

Next. There’s another buff folder fetched by her PPS, which she leafs through. ‘No, no, no’ reads a note from 1990. One to work in – almost as good as ‘Breakup means breakup.’ ”We have slammed down our application on the table,’ from 1967. Fine, but Harold Wilson.

Use your natural voice. Suddenly, inspiration hits. She puts down a straight banana upon which she’d begun to snack.

‘You had a Eurovision song called Waterloo and it wasn’t by us, or even France,’ she writes.

‘Also, I borrowed Boris’s computer and we need to talk about German porn,’ she continues, feeling again the old Home Secretary coming back.

That was good fun, she thinks, thirty pages later as she signs ‘Theresa’. And with an excitement she hadn’t felt since those twelve thrilling years at the Association for Payment Clearing Services, she impishly wondered what was in Article 51.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Unfortunately for Theresa:

    “Ms May had called [4 times in her letter] for talks on a future comprehensive trade deal between the EU and UK to take place at the same time as the so-called ‘Article 50’ talks on how Britain will exit the bloc.

    Ms Merkel today however said that talks on British divorce terms would take place first, after which talks on a future relationship would “hopefully soon” take place”.

    It really casts doubt on the mental capacity of Theresa May that she would insist in her letter on terms which a) it was evident from previous comments would not be acceptable, and b) that she then went ahead and repeated them four times in her Article 50 letter.

    Angela Merkel, of course, only had to veto her once.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Dear EU
    it’s not you, it’s me, I still fancy my ex (empire).

  • the rich get richer

    It was Ye (the EU ) with your bat S**t crazy immigration policies……Fook you jimmy…….Get Duncker off the brew……

  • Angry Mob

    It may cast more doubt on your mental capacity if you can’t understand the basic idea of setting out your negotiating position. There is no hard and fast rules as to how the negotiations are to be conducted.

  • eireanne3

    oh there are, there are hard and fast rules as to how the negotiations are to be conducted.-
    EU rules –
    and the UK is still a member and has to abide by the rules
    No Brexit until 2019 – barring a complete debacle
    The clock’s ticking even as we speak!!

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    If you think the above outlined procedure is part of a ‘negotiating position’ then I call into question your mental capacity too. What is the point of saying something which you KNOW will be knocked back – and always will be? It just makes you look stupid and incompetent – something we already know May is.

  • Angry Mob

    So your idea of a negotiation is whereby whoever claims dibs the other party must just simply accept?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Aye, well, if the other party in the negotiation is holding most of the cards, it’s a bad move to tell them you’ll lay down the terms. Unless you want to merely antagonise them before folding and losing.

  • Yussarian

    Brilliant Padraig – raised a laugh this way at least!

  • Reader

    BonaparteOCoonassa: What is the point of saying something which you KNOW will be knocked back – and always will be? It just makes you look stupid and incompetent –
    That’s why SF have never asked for a United Ireland, and the SNP didn’t ask for a second referendum to take place before the Brexit negotiations finish?

  • Kevin Breslin

    The problem Reader is that Westminster Conservatives demands on European, Scottish and Irish citizens do not come from any real position of wanting to establish affirmative common ground.

    If the Conservatives don’t take the initiative in laying out decisively and in concrete terms what they want and what they don’t want, and what reciprocal responsibilities they are happy to build trust upon then they are the ones engineering a path of grievance politics that makes it difficult for anyone to work with them.

    Part of the major problem comes from the sheer duplicity that the Conservatives have operated, shilling populism on matters they want to openly undermine without a Parliamentary Vote.

  • Reader

    Kevin Breslin: If the Conservatives don’t take the initiative in laying out decisively and in concrete terms what they want and what they don’t want, and what reciprocal responsibilities they are happy to build trust upon then they are the ones engineering a path of grievance politics that makes it difficult for anyone to work with them.
    So does that mean you disagree with Bonaparte above who says that we *shouldn’t* say what we want?
    The UK proposals are simple – Free Trade without Free Movement, and quick reciprocal arrangements on existing settlers.
    All of this is in the interests of every single member of the EU27. Entities within the EU are still comparing Deal, NoDeal and BRemain, and need to accept ASAP that the third option isn’t available. Other EU entities will gladly damage the UK and even the EU27 to protect the EU project, and I despise them utterly.

  • Angry Mob

    No one side simply lays down the terms, key word being “negotiation” where both parties agree the terms.

  • Angry Mob

    Those don’t relate as to how the talks are to be conducted, merely the criteria of the Lisbon Treaty. As to the two year point, that’s not true as it can the exit could be before or after.

    3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    If one of the parties to the negotiations is a 20 stone tough with a family to protect, and the other party is an 8 stone playground bully in it for the money, then negotiations usually take a rather predictable turn. Especially when the smaller of the two has previously sub-contracted all his ju-jitsu training to the other party.

    Sure, the wee fella can hack away at the others ankles a bit, maybe tear his jacket, but the end is predictable.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    But it looks like even May is not stupid enough to withdraw without an agreement. And if you think said agreement can be arrived at in less than two years, I suggest you tell her your secret plan.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I didn’t say ‘we shouldn’t say what we want’ – I said that it is stupid to say that we want something when it has been made very clear that it is absolutely not going to be made available to us.

  • Angry Mob

    The agreement that she is aiming for would probably take over 5 years but the point is that the talks could be extended or ended early which still holds true.

  • Angry Mob

    I wouldn’t consider the use or threat of force as reasonable negotiation however,

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It’s not a question of threat or force – it’s a question of power. Power means effectively that you can lose more than your opponent, and still be standing afterwards, while they won’t.

  • Angry Mob

    The EU played that game before with Cameron, it doesn’t always work that way.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It’s a contradiction to think you can have “free trade” and expect the right to deport the trader before they’re paid. How can you have free trade in services then demand states to discriminate on who can and who cannot sell them on a preferential basis.

    I know what the UK wants, it’s all hypocritical greed. My attitude is quite simple, if the UK government cannot deliver on free trade with the rest of Europe, then it won’t get reciprocation. There’s no point greedily demanding free trade without free movement without delivering free trade and allowing other nations to deny free movement to you.

    The U.K. government cannot have its cake and eat it, and expect Europe to bake it cakes just because it has a sweet tooth. The sheer behaviour of the Brexiteers are jeuvenile. Literally Me First, Britain First …

  • Reader

    Kevin Breslin: It’s a contradiction to think you can have “free trade” and expect the right to deport the trader before they’re paid. How can you have free trade in services then demand states to discriminate on who can and who cannot sell them on a preferential basis.
    I think you have heard EUphiles say that free trade and free movement are inseparable. That’s a diktat, not a logical necessity. All over the world there are free trade agreements without free movement. The EU Customs Union is not the only workable system.
    Also, it is possible to deport EU citizens even now. And it is also not unknown for non-EU citizens to travel to the UK on business, for pleasure or even get the right to live here. And, strangely enough, it is also not the habit of the UK Government to expel even non-EU traders so they don’t get paid. (And that is the strangest suggestion you have made so far.)
    [Edit] On a personal level, you seem to think that all good things come from rules. Lots and lots of lovely strict rules. Free Trade can arise from a lack of rules. You don’t get two chances to cheat a trader.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The fact is the Customs Union is the only workable system the UK have at the moment, and it’s extremely naive to expect the EU to work with a theoretical and rhetorical intangible framework from the mouths of ministers, while the EU has established structures.

    The U.K. needs to establish its own arrangements and stop being critical of others, cost them, sell them to the grumblers within their nation and forfeit a few idealisms for the sake of reality.

    The U.K. is the one making the diktats here, the European Union has established relationships with the rest of the world, whether they’re free trade or not, the legal precedent is there. The U.K. is just a third nation, if it wants to do what it wants it cannot complain if the EU does the same.

    The delusion that little UK can be more influential on the outside changing the decisions the people of the EU make through their elected politicians than they could on the inside is a bit of a pipedream, a dream you need to be stoned to have any hope of believing.

    The EU and the rest of the world are not going to contort for the sake of the U.K., the EU may contort a bit for the Republic of Ireland but the UK cannot demand anything from the EU it is unwilling to deliver to the EU.

    In terms of free movement it’s clear the UK Brexiter caliphate do not want reciprocation on this matter, so I see no (peaceful) way that it gets a hand that makes the EU give them a double standard. The U.K. isn’t China, its service industry, its science industry, its financial industry benefit from it. The U.K. is not a goods exporter to the same extent as the BRICS or the North Americans or even Australia, Japan or Korea, it is a service based economy. Services means having to have free movement or have red tape.

    As far as I’m concerned the Caliphate of Brexit and its obsession with opposing inward free movement while demanding outward free movement for itself is the hell the UK needs to pull itself out of, before it’s even capable of negotiating with anybody. Once this theocracy is removed, Britain can become Great Britain again.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What exactly are the UK planning to negotiate back to the EU?

    Like it or not controlling freedom of movement from the EU is a trade barrier, you cannot expect the EU to let UK citizens to move freely selling services on an equal footing to an EU national when the EU is within its rights to play the UK at its own game.

    May knows this, that’s why she’s leaving the single market.

    It’s leaving the customs union that will present the biggest logistical challenge to the UK, and no free trade deal short of membership or pseudo membership (think Vatican City) exists for the UK to work from off the shelf.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Anyway despise NATO allies and near neighbours if you want, the EU cannot under any circumstance protect the UK from itself, its own bitterness and its own paranoia.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Obviously preparing to match wits with Boris Johnson.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think if the UK wants others to wave rules, it has to be willing to wave the same rules itself. If Britannia waves the rules of the EU, the EU will wave the rules of Britannia. Of course that’s just a rule of thumb

    The U.K. doesn’t want free trade, it wants to dictate EU trade to be free to itself without any reciprocity.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I need to break off my relationship with you because I’ve contracted fasciitis … Sorry I mean fascists.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Believe me, in this case it will work that way. Haven’t you read any of the comments on how May’s initial letter has gone down with the EU, and how they have replied? Try:


  • Angry Mob

    They have a right to respond the way that way if they wish to do so but not to diverge the point you made was that Ms May should of simply capitulated instantly, which would of obviously made her look weak…

  • Angry Mob

    You seriously can’t think of *anything*?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “made her look weak”! And you think her actions already don’t? You are some humorist, I’ll say that much. I hope the EU can see the joke too.