Don’t leave me this way, says Roger Ratcliffe

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Getting on for 10 months after the EU referendum I’m still desperately struggling to get my head round how we could possibly have decided to terminate our formal relationship with the rest of Europe. It feels a bit like sitting with a glass of whisky into the wee small hours and raking through the embers of a marriage that came to a shuddering halt to the surprise and horror of one partner – in this case me – while my spouse remains determined to go it alone.

“I’m sorry,” she says. “You made too many demands on me. For starters, you kept inviting all these strangers back here. To be honest, I began to feel like I was an outsider in my own home. Then you kept laying down all these laws about this, that and the other. Like telling me I could only buy straight bananas. That was soooo the last straw…”

“Come on, I was joking,” I protest. “Surely you didn’t take it seriously. No one could believe that…”

“Anyway,” she barged on. “We spend a fortune on stuff like rioja and tapas every time we go out. I used to have such a great figure, but now I’m turning to fat and seeing the doctor with all kinds of ailments. I can put that money into getting healthy again.”

“I bet you don’t,” I say. “It’s a fantasy. Look, we live far more cheaply together. Once you’ve got everything to pay for yourself it’s going to get tough. I’ve seen those crazy figures your solicitor’s come up with. Trust me, you won’t be able to hang onto anything like your standard of living.”

So the legal split with Europe has been initiated by something called Article 50, which is the sort of decree nisi stage in ending a marriage in which grounds for divorce have been established. In two years time it will be a decree absolute, the final Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen etcetera.

What follows between now and then is the haggling over stuff like who gets to keep the Breaking Bad box set, the Robbie and Kylie CDs, and all the souvenirs from 40 years of marriage: stuff like the wonky Eiffel Tower ornament and the sombrero that once hung above the bed. Oh, and who gets lumbered with Boris the bulldog that absolutely refuses to be house-trained, and Nigel the pet rat.

The more I think about it, the more expletives have to be deleted. I think I probably have a mainly sympathetic readership on this, too. Is it fair to assume that the majority of those who are likely to buy Big Issue North voted to remain in the UK? As for supporters of Brexit, whether they want to admit it or not might it be a gross libel to suggest they would like to see those of our magazine’s vendors who are immigrants or asylum seekers erased from our streets?

So far it’s beginning to look like our post-divorce future will be pretty humiliating. I mean, look whose arms my soon-to-be ex ran to the moment she said she was off. None other than the world’s biggest cad, Donald Trump. And who was next? Mr Saudi Arabia, that well-known wife beater. Sooner or later, she’ll regret leaving me.

Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him on Twitter @Ratcliffe

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