“Theirs are strong and deep emotions. They feel devastated, angry, depressed, betrayed and ashamed, nearly two years after the referendum”. Prof Emmy van Deurzen, reflecting on survey conducted with Dr Helen de Cruz of 1,300 people who voted to Remain in the European Union in June 2016 referendum.
I am gradually waking up to the reality that the UK will indeed sleepwalk out of the EU in March next year. #brexitmeansbrexit as the Brexiteers have insisted since 52% of UK voters opted to Leave and 48% to Remain in the referendum.
My wife says she feels traumatized. There is a real sense of impending doom. I recall movies set in Medieval times when the End of the World was a real and present fear. Armageddon. I remember my teens when the Cold War led us all to consider building nuclear bunkers in the back garden.
Myself, I feel more a sense of mystification than trauma. “Things fall apart/The centre cannot hold”. The words of the poem by W.B. Yeats were written about a different political trauma, but they keep coming to mind whenever I think about Brexit.
Devastated? Certainly. I feel like a building that is being smashed by a wrecking ball. I was born in Austria, and being European is part of my identity. I have brought up my children to feel part of Europe. My daughter was in tears when this was ripped from her. My son was too young to vote in the referendum, but he believes anyway that referendums are undemocratic, and that it’s the job of politicians to act responsibly to do the best for those who elected them, not to pass the buck.
Angry? Yes, definitely. Referendums have been used by populist regimes through history to legitimate their undemocratic actions. I feel a real rage in myself when I think about the weak government that has allowed a small and extreme right-wing faction within the Tory party to split the country like this.
Betrayed? I feel betrayed. when I consider the lies that were told to the public ahead of the referendum. I feel deeply betrayed when I think about the self-serving and undignified behaviour of the politicians who have tried to ram-road this through for their own ends. I feel like crying when they cite the Will of the People to support their self-serving and crooked behaviour.
Ashamed? I feel that also, although unexpectedly, because I voted Remain and it’s not my fault we face this precipice. I marched in London with 700,000 people from all walks of life — middle class, working class; young and old; left-wing and right-wing– to demand a Vote on a Brexit deal that is a travesty of that promised by Brexiteers ahead of the referendum.
I did my best to stop this. But even so, it leaves me with a feeling of shame. I feel ashamed to be British, to be part of the squalid stitch-up that has been perpetrated in the name of democracy. I feel ashamed to be part of a nation that is being laughed at by its Continental neighbours.
Depressed? Not really. I feel like fighting this, and I will not allow the sneers of the 52% to stop me. But I do feel a deep sense of loss. In the last two years, I have been bereaved twice. My mother died on the 1st day of 2017, and my father died earlier this year. Mum was Austrian and Dad was English, and they met after the war. I always felt their marriage reflected a reconciliation after the traumas of European conflict. Now I feel like I face a third bereavement, all the more painful because it is the result of wilful suicide, rather than age and the course of nature.