Two divorce lawyers have given their professional advice for Brexit talks

PUBLISHED: 09:19 19 June 2017

(PA Wire/PA Images)

(PA Wire/PA Images)

PA Wire/PA Images

“After Brexit, the sooner we can reach the point of acceptance about our future the better.”

The Brexit negotiations have consistently been compared with divorce proceedings.

As talks get under way, two of the UK’s top divorce lawyers discuss the analogy and how Britain should approach the issue.

What parallels can be drawn between Brexit and divorce proceedings?

“Invariably when I see a client seeking advice about divorce I find that one party is more reluctant to divorce than the other,” said Julian Hawkhead, senior partner of Stowe Family Law, the UK’s largest specialist family law firm.

“I would say to clients that don’t want to divorce, that it is impossible to stay in a marriage where the other party has decided that it is over and therefore we have to focus on the practical consequences of sorting out that separation.”

Rupi Rai is principal lawyer in family law for Slater and Gordon, one of the UK’s largest law firms, and she agreed with the parallel of division.

“I always warn clients the reality is you’re not going to walk straight back out again with what you brought in, whatever your assets are, because you’ve now got to carve out two homes,” said Rai. “Likewise with Brexit.

“The question is will we reach a point where we’re all actually satisfied with what we get - and in divorce proceedings somebody tends to come away feeling more aggrieved than the other.”

How would you advise Britain as your client?

Rai suggests Britain should categorise their objectives from negotiations, such as free movement and the benefits of free trade, based on their importance.

“What is it you won’t negotiate on - what must you secure?” she said. “Then what are the items you will negotiate on, and what are the items you will concede just to try and get this moving.”

Hawkhead said: “You have to be able to consider the situation from the other party’s point of view as well, considering not only what you both want but more importantly why you both want it.

“There is a story I often use to illustrate this for clients about two children who are arguing over an orange that they both want. Their mother could intervene and cut the orange in half, however neither child is happy with this obvious compromise.

“Why? It turns out one of them wanted the fruit inside, the other wanted the rind.”

Which side has the stronger negotiating position?

“I always tell clients, whatever the pressure, atmosphere or difficulties at home, try not to leave,” said Rai. “The reality is the minute you get out of the family home you’re putting the other party in a better negotiating position, because they can just sit pretty.

“In the case of the EU, they can say right you’ve triggered article 50 and you’ve got to negotiate in that time. They can drag their feet and take their time, forcing us into a position where there’s an end date where we have to get a deal.”

Hawkhead believes the idea of no deal being an option is likely to have been “moderated” by Theresa May’s weakened position following the General Election. However, he thinks Britain are in a stronger negotiating position.

“I think it would be easier to represent the UK in the negotiations,” said Hawkhead. “Advising a party who has so many other interested parties involved, like the EU with its member states, is never easy.”

What is the role of the citizens in these negotiations?

“We the citizens are a bit like the children,” said Mr Hawkhead - who does not believe the residence of said “children” should be used as a bartering tool.

“It’s just a question of who gives first,” he said. “My style of negotiation is not to waste time discussing unattractive or simply unreasonable points, and I think any idea that the present residence of EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens living overseas might be in jeopardy is highly unattractive.”

Meanwhile, Rai believes the children in this case still have a role in its outcome - possibly in the form of a new referendum on the Brexit deal to be struck.

“In divorce proceedings you have a CAFCA, child and family court advisory service, they observe the child and the parent and report back on the child’s wishes and feelings,” said Rai. “The amount of weight put on those wishes depends on the maturity of the child.

“With Brexit the children are the electorate and in this instance they need to be involved and need to be able feel their wishes are being heard.”

What relationship should Britain have with the EU post-Brexit?

“For the sake of the children, I tell my clients you may not like the other party for whatever reason but you’re going to have to put up with them for the rest of your life,” said Rai. “If we come out of the EU we want to do it in a way which leaves you in a good relationship.

“You may not be the best of friends or have a special relationship, but they must still be able to communicate effectively for the sake of those living in the countries.”

What is the most likely outcome?

“Similar to what I tell my clients, we will depart as two separate individuals as Britain and the EU,” said Rai. “Unfortunately both of us will be poorer and there are going to be consequences living on your own.

“You have to make do with what you get left over. Britain is going to go it alone and let’s see, we might be better off or we might not - the same goes for the EU.”

“In divorce we talk about a cycle of loss where the emotional journey is akin to a bereavement and the parties go through feelings of denial, guilt, resentment and anger but eventually they reach a point of acceptance,” said Hawkhead. “After Brexit, the sooner we can reach the point of acceptance about our future the better.”

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest articles

video Should Labour stand in Northern Ireland?

Labour has traditionally not stood candidates in Northern Ireland. But on the back of the Tory-DUP deal that might be about to change

Little comfort in Davis’ muddled Brexit papers

The Government’s transitional customs proposals are a start – but it will be far from plain sailing for business

How your view on Brexit reflects the charities you support

A new study explores how and why the favoured charitable causes of Leave and Remain voters differ.

The untold stories of women and girls in deadly Detroit

A new film, Detroit, depicts the deadly five days in the combustible city over the summer of 1967 when disorder saw the National Guard sent in and dozens left dead.

Hungary: Eclipse of democracy in the heart of Europe

The decline of democracy in Hungary is an ominous sign for Europe.

video Ancient Rome was more modern than our alt-right

Social media went into overdrive when a BBC kids’ programme included a black centurion.

Support and opposition of a Hard Brexit aren’t just philosophical positions, they are ACTIONS

It’s not who you are underneath it’s what you do that defines you

video The great myth of British pluck (and why it’s a symbol of decline)

Brexiteers have deluded themselves with a belief in the native pluck of the British which will eventually win the day.

video Stirring up hatred is a means to an end for Trump’s mafia

On the ground in a divided United States of America past battle lines are being redrawn.

video The direct line between Trump campaign and Charlottesville horror

Donald Trump’s silence over the neo-Nazi’s in Charlottesville was deafening. But did he fail to speak out sooner because the only friends he has left are on the far right?

Brexit must not mean we slide back in time on gay rights

When Brexit-backing millionaire Arron Banks described homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” Twitter reacted with horror. Here’s why Britain must not return to the dark days of Section 28

video Al Gore: No lie can live forever

Former US vice president talks Trump, Brexit and climate change denial.

This was neither up-to-date nor a poll. And not a single participant voiced their support for Hard Brexit

A recent poll by well-regarded academics suggested the vast majority of the British public now backed an extreme form of Brexit. Here‘s why that is not the case.

Parliament is filled with “spineless lemmings”

Brexit may not happen at all – when what we need are leaders, not followers, to win this battle

Leave.EU launch deselection bid in hope of dumping soft Brexit ministers out of their jobs

Leave.EU have launched a broadside on cabinet Remainers Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a bid to get the pair deselected.

Edward Enninful brings a new way of fashion thinking to Vogue

Fashion can be considered frivolous and in some ways it is.

My sense of humour failure over Brexit has helped clear Scotch mist

I don’t blame the Scots if Brexit leads them to want another shot at independence

The extraordinary story of how the humble spud created the modern world

The rise of capitalism and individualism in the West, and even the current reforms in China, can all be explained by the rise of the potato

Putin is just waiting for the right moment to spear Trump

Vlad the Lad is the supreme master of the macho man holiday snap...

The lesson of Singapore is not one Brexiteers want to hear

Long considered a lodestar of go-it-alone globalisation, Singapore now needs its neighbours more than ever


Watch us on YouTube

6 excellent reasons to go out and buy The New European this week

Views: 179

The rollercoaster ride of Theresa May's plummeting approval ratings

Views: 605

A year of failure and fiasco in May’s Number 10

Views: 419


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter