In early January, I found myself in a packed hall at the London School of Economics waiting for Europe’s most powerful woman to appear. As Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, arrived, the applause and crackling of the cameras made the whole thing feel far more glamorous than a mid-morning, mid-week speech on the European Union and Brexit. The last time I had witnessed such palpable elation from LSE students was for the Greek economist Yannis Varoufakis.
Who knew the EU could be this stirring? Von der Leyen’s rhetoric was carefully calibrated. All of us were following the meanders of her love letter to Britain dressed in a warning – or was that the other way around? And throughout, the old cliché of this being the ‘end of a marriage’ ebbed in and out of the message. But, in the aftermath of Boris Johnson’s victory in December, as the trial separation appeared to head for divorce, we caught a glimpse of how each of the parties saw their future.