THE symbolism will be striking when Theresa May visits cemeteries in Belgium and France to pay her respects to those who died in the First World War as part of commemorative events to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
These solemn occasions will also afford the Prime Minister a chance to discuss the latest Brexit developments with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
And while there’s little likelihood of any rapprochement between Tory MPs on rival sides of the Brexit divide, the tone of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s speech in France was more respectful than some of the more colourful language used by his predecessor Boris Johnson.
In reflecting the national mood during this season of reflection, it’s a sad indictment on the conduct of the Brexit debate – and negotiations – that Mr Hunt had to point out that the UK and France will remain “tied by bonds of friendship and commerce” after Britain leaves the European Union next March.
Though this country is in the process of severing its ties from the EU, it is not leaving Europe and there will be many instances – particularly pertaining to foreign policy, national security and terrorism – when co-operation will still be mutually beneficial.
Yet, as Mrs May tries to finalise a Brexit proposition that she can put to her divided Cabinet before a final round of negotiations with the EU, it is to be hoped that the quiet dignity being witnessed at Armistice events here, and across Europe, continues in talks between political leaders.
For, as the noted historian Sir Max Hastings observed about Britain and Europe’s shared history, what kind of “Englishman in 2018 can offer rational justification for condescending to foreigners in general and Europeans in particular?” It is a point even more valid on the eve of a remembrance weekend like no other.