Are Marriages Made in Heaven?

  • Jonathan Charteris-BlackEmail author


In this chapter I discuss the history of the ‘marriage and divorce’ frame to illustrate how influential metaphors, such as the ‘divorce bill’, originated in the media framing of British-EU relations. I demonstrate how the media framed Britain’s relationship with the EU as ‘a marriage of convenience’ from at least 1990 onwards and how therefore ‘divorce’ was always a possibility. I then consider the implications of the ‘marriage and divorce’ frame as the master metaphor for Britain’s desire to leave the European Union. From the very start the dominant presence of the ‘marriage and divorce’ frame in the traditional media provided a rhetorical repertoire that could readily be introduced into the Brexit debate online. Since marriage is often stalked by the shadow of divorce, and evokes moral intuitions based on Fairness/Cheating, understanding UK’s relationship with EU as a ‘marriage of convenience’ always meant that once there were difficulties, the divorce script was waiting in the wings. Just as in the discourse of relationship counsellors, events such as divorce can be reframed in terms of ‘moving on’, so I suggest that the departure of the UK from a particular institution could also be framed in terms of forming new relationships that avoided the negative associations of divorce. For Theresa May the DUP in Northern Ireland was a crucial member of the family on which her government depended—this part of the family is more concerned with remaining a UK family member than with the UK’s divorce from the EU. Ironically, May’s efforts to get the best possible ‘divorce’ only succeeded in uniting the European family against her while simultaneously splitting her own national family, and leading to them divorcing her!


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and EducationUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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