LONDON — Even the top players cannot stop comparing Britain's clamorous exit from the European Union to a divorce, and with each passing week, the process feels more like a marital split.
It has been public and embarrassing and messy — and that's just in London.
Not only are Britain and Europe tussling over how much should be paid in the divorce bill, but the governing Conservative Party is roiling with ideological divisions and leadership intrigues, all brought on by Brexit.
For months, we have been in that stage in the separation where all the parties are taking sides and saying nasty things.
Whether the serious negotiations can begin will be determined in part by a major speech Friday afternoon in Florence by British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Supporters are billing the address as a defining moment, when the embattled Tory leader finally will reveal a clear version — versus a lot of poll-tested words — of where she plans to go with Brexit.
Her detractors already were trying out their cutting lines on Twitter.
If you have tuned out — and most of the world has, according to opinion polls — remarkably little has been accomplished after three rounds of talks in Brussels.
It has been six months since Britain triggered its exit, and the clock is ticking. Brexit is supposed to happen in March 2019, ready or not.
The British talk shows and editorial pages are obsessed with the separation, and who is up and down. But in Europe, not so much — they have moved on.
The E.U. just does not seem that into Britain anymore.
Italians feel they are overwhelmed by the wave of immigrants. Spain is facing a separatist rebellion in Catalonia. The French have launched the broadest labor reform in a generation. And in the German election, Brexit was not mentioned in the presidential debates.
At the European Commission, in President Jean-Claude Juncker's "state of the union address" last week, Brexit merited scant mention.
"And even there, it was framed as a moment of sadness and regret, not horror," the Guardian newspaper reported.
But there is a ton of drama.
The Europeans and British spent the summer lobbing insults.
More disturbing for proponents of an orderly, businesslike Brexit, the ruling Tories are tussling among themselves over how best to cut the strings — and who is really in charge.
Alastair Campbell, a former Labour Party spin doctor, described the jousting within the Conservative Party as "leadership psychodrama."
Britain accused Europe of being "stubborn" and "unimaginative," and has threatened to walk away from the table altogether.
Top E.U. negotiators say that Britain's actions are "vague," "unprepared" and "unrealistic."
Nod if you have been there.
Britain has vowed that London will not be "blackmailed" into paying a hefty divorce bill, said Liam Fox, Britain's international trade secretary.
Independent estimates of that bill — the settling of accounts for commitments made, offset by investments paid, minus rebates — range from $30 billion to $90 billion.
British news outlets Thursday speculated that May might name her own number — around $25 billion.
There are hard-line Brexiteer Tories who argue that Britain should not pay a pound.
The 27 E.U. member states have remained united that they will start talking about future rights, privileges and trade for Britain only after "sufficient progress" has been made on three other key issues — E.U. citizens' rights, the border with Ireland and the divorce bill.
This spin cycle of uncertainty makes British business — and the global houses of finance located in the City of London — twitchy.
Not a week goes by without news of a London-based insurance syndicate or global banking firm moving its headquarters to Dublin or Frankfurt.
Quick, what is Britain's plan for exiting the European Union?
Dunno? Join the crowd, even if you read the Economist.
Over the summer, 10 Downing Street issued a raft of position papers — which were criticized for being written in such purposeful vagueness as to be nearly opaque.
Stay in the customs union and single market — or scram? The consensus from the May government seems to be get out of both, with a transition period.
Yet Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and an outspoken critic of Brexit, estimates there is a 30 percent chance the divorce will not happen.
Blair argues that as Britons come to learn more about the Brexit deal, they should have a chance to change their mind. "We agreed to swap a house, but we haven't yet seen what the other place looks like," he told the BBC.
"It's a bit late now, this epiphany," sniffed Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. He noted that it was under Blair's premiership that Britain in 2004 decided not to apply border controls for Eastern Europeans.
He also had some words for the former prime minister: "Tony Blair has got to get over it."
The Europeans complain that Britian is sending mixed signals. They make a good point.
Enter Boris Johnson, Britain's mop-headed foreign secretary and one of the leading figures in the pro-Brexit campaign.
Last week, Johnson penned a 4,000-word whopper of an article outlining his vision for Brexit, a document that reportedly was unsanctioned by his boss.
The manifesto was seen by some as an attempt to undercut May's highly anticipated speech Friday.
Others said that it was a leadership bid by Johnson, an attempt to position himself more favorably with the hard-line Brexiteers in his party should there be a sudden vacancy for the top job.
"If you're an E.U. negotiator, that's profoundly confusing at best and deeply frustrating at worst," said Rob Ford, a politics expert at the University of Manchester. "It leaves them asking the same question that they have been asking of Britain since the day after we voted to leave the E.U., which is: What exactly do you want?"
"This appears to be yet another twist in the internal warfare within the Conservative Party. It does the U.K. no credit and no service in the wider world," the leader of the socialist bloc in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittella, told the Observer. "I fear the British government is heading towards the Brexit rocks."
When asked about Johnson's treatise, May told reporters that it was just Boris being Boris and that the vehicle of British government was "driven from the front."
Amber Rudd, Britain's home secretary, accused Johnson of "back-seat driving."
Kenneth Clarke, a senior Conservative and an arch-European, accused Johnson of exploiting the fact that May no longer has a majority in Parliament following her drubbing in the June election.
"And he knows perfectly well that, normally, a foreign secretary would be sacked instantly for doing that," he told the BBC.
Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, tweeted: "Brexit is the product of a fraudulent, frivolous campaign led by 2 groups of silly public school boys reliving their dormitory pillow fights."
There is quite a bit more of this back-and-forth, but you get the idea.