To the credit of all Belgians, their everlasting quarrel had rarely provoked violence. Most politicians and commentators, on both sides of the language barrier, believe that another sullen, temporary solution will be found in the coming weeks. In the longer term, much depends on the economic tensions that are pulling the country apart. Flanders is booming today but is producing few babies and is short of labour. Wallonia has a younger population than the north and a much higher birth-rate. The Wallonian economy is finally beginning to recover from the shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. The two halves of the country may yet learn that they need one another.
Should other nations care what happens?
Yes. We fought the First World War to preserve the neutrality and identity of Belgium. A strong Belgium is still important to Britain and to the EU. It is a great irony – beloved of Europhobes – that Belgium, one of the greatest advocates of a federal Europe, cannot make sense of its own federal system. In truth, the two sets of arguments are rather different.