The five stages of Brexit grief

June 27, 2016, 10 Comments

Lion Monument

The Lion of Lucerne could easily be a wounded English lion today

“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.






10 Comments on "The five stages of Brexit grief"

  1. Tim Dawson-Townsend Wednesday June 29th, 2016 at 12:51 AM · Reply

    Diccon: That seems pretty pessimistic to say, “There is no going back, so the only way is forward by making the best of a bad job.” Is that a British trait, too?

    I’m still puzzled as to the legal basis for the referendum, since the UK does not have the tradition of the general public voting on referendums like the Swiss do. Or is it technically non-binding, but if the government did not proceed, there would be a vote of no confidence and the government would fall? And who decided a simple majority would be sufficient for such a question, rather than a super majority of 2/3 or something?

    But now, with some of the arguments of the Leave campaign crumbling or being exposed less than a week after the vote, are there reasons enough to question the validity of the vote?

    Good luck!

    • Sarah W Thursday July 14th, 2016 at 10:35 PM · Reply

      sounds like you’re in the Bargaining stage…

  2. William Tell Thursday June 30th, 2016 at 10:23 AM · Reply

    Housing is strained. Schools are being flooded with immigrants. London is full of immigrant ghettoes with Muslim migrants who will never assimilate. Switzerland is having to absorb thousands of single male migrants and fake asylum seekers. They know exactly what they can get in terms of benefits and a free ride. Switzerland is becoming a dumping ground for foreigners and criminals; Pakistan, Nigeria, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Eastern Europe, UK and more. I’m old enough to see how Switzerland has changed it is not the safe country I grew up in in the 1970s. Greed has made people become complacent and forget their own people. One can be proud to be Muslim, proud to be black, but can’t be proud of one’s own white European culture. As soon as one wants to protect one’s own culture and stop people flooding in to one’s country one is labelled a racist by all the freeloaders. Muslim immigration is particularly bad because they refuse to adopt European values and Muslims follow dogmatic beliefs that are regressive, medieval and anti-European.

    The only people that want this are the people that are benefitting from open borders such as the pen pushers and bankers. Self centred individuals. British people have a right to decide who they let in. Visiting London after some years has been a shocking experience. I’ve walked through areas where it’s rare to hear the English language being spoken. On buses I hear people who are loudly and unashamedly speaking Arabic, Polish and other languages, residents of the UK. And the most shocking thing is the sheer numbers drowning out the British. Open borders means people walk in and do not appreciate they have been accepted into a new country and do their best to assimilate and adopt the new culture. Self-entitled, rude and uneducated individuals. When I visit Britain I speak English. I have manners. The lowest of the low are flooding into countries all over Europe because they know we are weak and have weak liberal social policies and they know white people feel guilty about being white and successful. Their laughing at us and disdain us.

    It is not our problem that people in Africa and the Middle East don’t have the intelligence to organise their own societies and follow dogmatic outdated beliefs. They need to solve their own problems. If we stop giving them hand outs maybe they will realise they need to improve things for themselves. Europe has been giving money to Africa for decades, but it’s still having problems. Leave them to it.

    Migration to England up until the 1990s was between 10,000 and 20,000 a year. It is now 350,000. Absolutely insane. Switzerland is even worse in terms of its population. And the quality of life in both countries is getting worse for ordinary working class people.

  3. Willian Tell Thursday June 30th, 2016 at 05:27 PM · Reply

    You are British and your roots are British. It would be an insult if you applied for a Swiss passport and classed yourself as Swiss. You will never be Swiss however hard you try. Be proud of your country rather than adopt a false identity. Celebrate your own culture.

  4. Mervyn Evans Thursday June 30th, 2016 at 08:49 PM · Reply

    Diccon – absolutey nothing to do with the above but…. We are staying at the hotel in Neuhaus and have been using ‘slow train..’ as our guide. The hotel owner is fascinated by your book. I want to get her a copy, she speaks excellent English but has the book been translated into Swiss? P.S. excEllen book by the

    • Diccon Bewes Friday July 1st, 2016 at 03:23 PM · Reply

      Hi. Thanks for your lovely comment. the book is available in German under the title ‘Immer Schön Langsam’. The bookshop in Interlaken should have a copy (also of the English edition)

  5. TJ Martin Wednesday July 6th, 2016 at 05:13 PM · Reply

    In all honesty Diccon once all the smoke and dust has cleared and the fear mongers etc have been silenced in the end Brexit will prove to be ” Much Ado About Nothing ” The simple reality being the UK was never fully engaged with the EU .. the whole concept of a ‘ politically ‘ United Europe was from day one a pretentious and ill conceived attempt to ‘ unite ‘ a series of disparate countries who barely like one another .. never mind willing to cooperate politically with one another that from the beginning was doomed to fail .. and over the years since the political focus has proven to be at best a dysfunctional mess .. serving the needs of its German overlord while making the poorer countries its chattels at best …

    Then Diccon … recognize THE most successful country on the European continent is the one you’ve chosen to live in ( CH ) that is not and never has been a part of the EU in any way shape or form . Also recognizing the 2nd most successful of late has been Norway .. once again having the minimum to do with the EU … and methinks good sir thou shoudlest put thy pessimism and depression aside … and recognize that the UK despite all the fear mongering etc on the part of the 1% that actually do benefit from the UK being in the EU .. have made the smartest long term decision they possibly could of made . And in closing for a bit of perspective and dare I call it prophecy … read ” At the End of an Age ” by John Lukacs . Despite being written in 2002 the 1st chapter alone will have your jaw dropping to the ground as he all but predicts the inevitable demise of the EU … as well as as much as it pains me to say it … the rise in American politics of a ‘ Trump ‘ like character . FYI ; Should our election be ‘ Trumped ‘ this Fall I may be hitting you up for a bit of ex pat’s [ even though you’re a UK and we’d be a US ex pat ] advice on integrating into CH society should we decide to pull the chord and bail . A suggestion ? Perhaps a book on being an ex-pat in CH would be in order ?

    • Diccon Bewes Thursday July 7th, 2016 at 08:16 AM · Reply

      I’d like to agree with your optimism but there is one slight problem with it. You say that Switzerland “is not and never has been a part of the EU in any way shape or form.” While technically that’s true as CH is not a member, Switzerland is deeply involved with the EU through many bilateral treaties. Those give it access to the single market, which all economists here agree is key to Swiss economic success as without that the Swiss market would be too small to sustain the economy. And in return Switzerland has accepted free movement of people from EU states, again a crucial part of the Swiss success as it brings in much-needed workers, both skilled and unskilled. That is now all in question after the referendum of Feb 2014 which called for immigration quotas from the EU. Over two years later there is still no resolution in sight as Switzerland wants to keep single market access but have immigration quotas and the EU maintains that you cannot have your cake and eat it. It could all go pear-shaped, as many here fear, because the referendum states that if no agreement is reached within three years (ie Feb 2017), the quotas must be introduced unilaterally, which may lead to the Switzerland being excluded from the single market.

      As for Norway “once again having the minimum to do with the EU”, that is also not entirely true. It is a member of the EEA which means it has access to the single market but accepts free movement of people AND pays into the EU budget without any grants or rebates. As the Norwegian ambassador said during the referendum campaign, the Norway option is the worst of all possible worlds, in terms of political control and cost-benefits. Norway’s economic success has more to do with oil than not being in the EU.

      All that means is that there is no easy answer, despite what Brexiters claim. The rosy view of the UK being an offshore powerhouse is already falling apart and we don’t even have a Prime Minister to lead the way yet.

      • TJ Martin Monday July 11th, 2016 at 06:47 PM · Reply

        Trust me Diccon . When it all comes out in the wash the UK like CH and Norway will have its trade and financial agreements all locked in as well , My so called ‘ optimism ‘ based on the fact that the world we live in today is all but governed by the major corporations [ unfortunately ] and those corporations will not lose one of their most lucrative markets [ the UK ] on your side of the Atlantic . To put a point on it . Noticed the distinct change in tone and rhetoric coming from both Angele Merkel as well as Germany’s EU minister of late when it comes to Brexit and the UK ? Put it all down to VW-Audi , Daimler Benz and BMW laying the law down telling Merkel et al behind semi closed doors that should they not push forward for mutually beneficial trade agreements etc with the UK … the ramifications for German will be harsh .. including all three pulling much if not all of their manufacturing and corporate HQ’s out go Germany . As for easy answers though Diccon we are in absolute agreement . Fact is I’m no longer sure [ as a bonafide boomer who fought for at least some answers in the past ] that there are any answers for the complex and rapidly deteriorating mess we’re all in . FYI brand new PM for you as of today . Though the way they got to her is at the very least somewhat questionable … and in the end Cameron coming out quite the wimp and sore loser .

  6. andy baynham Friday March 3rd, 2017 at 01:37 PM · Reply

    I am more enraged than ever and when I read comments like those of William Tell here, I get more so, how dare people speak loudly in a foreign language in London!!!! If living among foreigners was a problem, why would London vote resoundingly and clearly to remain??? Never have I felt so desperately sad and angry about something political. That shall never change. I am making sure I get out of the UK as soon as I can. The woman on question time summed it all up for me, if one can assume that the vote was not rascist, ( I think it was), then it was a vote of stupidity, as she said ” I was going to vote to remain, but I went to my local supermarket and the bananas were straight and I changed my mind” or similar. Anyway, good luck and enjoyed reading the book and blog – I lived in Suisse Romande for 6 years.

Leave a Comment