If a broken air conditioner could worsen a 1987 quarrel between Margaret Thatcher and the EU, what does that mean for the two very different Brussels buildings – the ‘Starfish’ and the ‘Space Egg’ – where Brexit will be hatched?

It was summer: Brussels was in the grip of a heatwave and Britain was isolated in Europe. The year was 1987 and Margaret Thatcher was in her prime, recalls Lord John Kerr, a former UK ambassador to the European Union.

Fresh from her 1987 election victory and “full of adrenaline”, Thatcher refused to compromise on an EU budget line, blocking the final summit communique approved by 11 other European leaders. “It was June and it was the old Charlemagne building [in Brussels] and the air conditioning broke down and it was a heatwave,” Kerr recalls. “The fact it was hot and uncomfortable and unpleasant contributed to the disastrous outcome.”

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