The five stages of Brexit grief
June 27, 2016, 10 Comments
“First came denial. No, no, no – although my language might have been a little more colourful. This cannot be happening to the country I love. This is not who we are.
By Friday lunchtime it was anger. At the way hate not hope had won the vote. At the blaming of immigrants for all the country’s problems. That anger became rage when the winners began to retract their promises and admit their lies: the extra money for the NHS was now ‘a mistake’, stopping immigration was now ‘never going to happen’. The voters were duped with empty rhetoric and easy scapegoats. Such a referendum should be a triumph of democracy, but the way this one was won does nothing to increase trust in politics or politicians.
On Friday evening the bargaining set it. Perhaps it won’t be so bad after all. There must be some sort of plan. The other 27 in the European Union feel hurt and rejected but an amicable solution could be possible. We all still have to live and trade together afterwards, and Switzerland manages to survive (half) outside the EU, even if neighbourly relations are not so good right now.
At breakfast on Saturday the depression started. Extremism had won and that is never good for anyone. Openness and tolerance had been thrown aside in favour of xenophobia and isolationism. My homeland is now a dis-United Kingdom, a country deeply divided between Remain and Leave, parliament and people, Scotland and England, young and old, reality and expectation. The lunatics have taken over the asylum and the immediate future looks bleak.
I’m still waiting for acceptance. This fifth stage of grief will come eventually, according to the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But it won’t be easy. It hurts too much and the pain is just starting. Nationalism has not served Europe well in the past; a look back to the summer of 1916 shows that. As much as half of Britain (and half of Switzerland) might wish it, no country is an island in our modern world.
But for better or worse, our marriage to Europe is over. There is no going back, so the only way is forward by making the best of a bad job. This is not the end of the world. It will still rain, the Queen will still reign and England will still lose the football.
Many hearts are broken, mine included, but we will be very British and face this next challenge the same way we do everything: by starting with a nice cup of tea.”
This article first appeared (in German) in the SonntagsBlick newspaper on 26 June.
The following day I was on Swiss national radio commenting on the same issue, with the interview both in English and German. You can listen to both on the SRF Radio website, with my podcasts at the end.