Has Brexit driven us all mad?
Emmy van Deurzen
Chair of Voices for Europe
More and more people are complaining that Brexit is driving them mad. They are thoroughly fed up with it and wish it would all go away. While some think that ‘we should just leave, get on with it and forget all about it’, most of us are aware that nothing is that simple anymore and we are now caught in a trap. Whichever way we turn Britain seems stuck with this unsatisfactory and shameful Brexit process, which clings to our nation like a tar baby. People are no longer naïve about what Brexit involves and they know that the moment we do leave we shall become caught up in decades of Brexit negotiations to recuperate even a fraction of the trade deals and treaties we are abandoning. People fear that things will go from bad to worse and that our economy and our moral standards and international position in the world will just continue to deteriorate. This is indeed maddening.
To Brexit or not to Brexit
Many words have been used to describe Brexit over the past three years, some of them flattering and positive, some of them condemnatory and negative, depending on which side of the divide people stand on. Interestingly few of the descriptions of Brexit have been positive in recent months. Those who champion its cause have retreated into minimizing its alleged merits and costs and are pleading merely for its future opportunities instead of speaking of it as a liberation or an economic opportunity, as they used to. They are aware that the promises made cannot and will not be kept. Brexit was a false proposition. Mrs. May, who has never used euphemisms for it, but has always been the queen of tautology, has now firmly ensconced herself in a dutiful description of Brexit, as something ‘that must be done’. She keeps promising to ‘deliver Brexit’, as if she is speaking of a bad job that must be completed, come hell or high water. It is hard to know whether this is another deception or whether her dutiful commitment to doing harm to her own country is genuinely felt by her to be some kind of accomplishment in that it will ‘complete the task she has taken on’. It makes one wonder to which higher authority she feels herself to be accountable in this manner.
There are few people in the country who continue to admire her morality of executive obedience and her approval rates have gone down dramatically. Many now wonder what particular power and purpose this obedience is serving. Some will believe it is all in aid of the Tory party. But that is hardly credible as the Tory party is being torn apart in front of our eyes, largely because nobody has shown the leadership skills to stand for the principle of doing right by Britain and taking the moral high ground of admitting defeat and re-evaluating the situation. Others still believe that May is a handmaiden to the ERG and that she is under severe pressure to obey them or lose her position all together. This may have been true once, but she is now clearly on the warpath against ERG, who want a NO Deal Exit, and is heading stubbornly towards a Brexit based on her inferior WA, which will also wreck Britain. Some believe she is straddling the divide in the party and acting as the saviour, trying to cobble together a feasible compromise, but it is clear that all her tricks and postponements have had only one objective: to force everyone’s hand to vote for ‘her’ deal. Whether she actually believes in Brexit is quite another matter. Whether anyone actually still believes in good faith that Brexit will be good for Britain’s future is now the main question. As Steve Bray, our number one Brexit protester at the Houses of Parliament says: “Brexit. Is it worth it?’ Not many people can answer that question in the positive, unless they are pretty short sighted and wear sizeable blinkers. Every fact that has been uncovered is directly opposed to the idea that Brexit can possibly be worth it for Britain and yet we continue to persist with it, stubbornly.
It is this apparently irrational persistence in ignoring facts, to commit self-harm that is driving the nation to distraction and that indeed bears a close resemblance to madness. Britons up and down the country are complaining of a lack of logic and sanity in the situation. Nothing appears to make sense anymore. People begin to see that this country is putting itself at great disadvantage in a global world. What is our moral and ethical position in the face of what is obviously a monumental historical mistake? Do we want to pigheadedly continue on this path quoting the not very democratic and fraudulent vote of 2016 as the starting gun that set us on a path we now have to complete? Or do we want to consider that even if that vote had been democratic it might now be in question, as it has become evident that Britain is pursuing a policy that was never fully understood? It is a strange spectacle to see some politicians still justifying their blind pursuit of something so obviously defunct and defective and demonstrably damaging. One wonders if they are so self-deceptive that they do not know they are in error or whether they are up to something so devious that they callously persist with mendacious story lines, that are blatantly and demonstrably inaccurate. We know that some still trot out the old ‘will of the people’ argument, even though this has been thoroughly debunked in so many ways, not in the last place by it being so closely related to fascist terminology and demagoguery, but also simply and factually because the will of the people, according to all polls, has now definitely changed to wanting to remain. There are now 16 points between leave and remain, in favour of the latter. The people are clear, but they are no longer being consulted. Their oft repeated will to remain is falling on deaf ears. This is something that will soon lead to anger and rebellion rather than madness.
It is aggravating that this two and a half year old opinion poll that has been shown to have been faulty in so many ways (criminal overspending, psychographic interference, disenfranchisement of 5 million crucial tax paying citizens whose futures were in the balance, misinformation and deception on a previously unknown scale) is still used as an excuse for going ahead. It is a much-favoured tactic to demand obedience to the ‘democratic vote’ or to pretend that a second referendum would not amount to a confirmation of democracy. It is obvious to anyone who knows about fairness of the democratic process that giving the public a final say is now a necessity if we want to prove that we are still in fact a democracy. A democracy that does not allow for verification of a vote of this magnitude and that gets frozen in the past, is not worth having.
What about democracy?
It is hard to know how many people are still cowed by the faulty and misleading rhetoric about democracy, but it seems unlikely that there can be many people who have not yet understood that these grandiose statements are both wrong and deliberately misleading and only serve to deprive the public of expressing their current, much better informed, opinion on what has turned out to be the case. The fact that there was never a mandate for a hard Brexit, since we never voted on what kind of Brexit we would opt for has been persistently ignored. Many seem to have forgotten the fact that a minority government carried on negotiating on a hard Brexit, with unrealistic red lines, when these were no longer warranted since the public had clearly shown its disapproval of that strategy in the general election of 2017. This does not chime well with all the talk about ‘democracy’. Democracy has not been well served in the UK in the past years and history will not be gentle in pointing that out, when the time comes. Despite many mendacious statements to the contrary, the EU’s standards on democracy are definitely a lot more robust and exacting than the democratic standards of the EU referendum in the UK. I shall pass over the lack of super majority for a decision of such magnitude. We all know there should have been one had it been a decisive referendum, but it wasn’t, so there wasn’t one. The points have all been made over and over again. Anyone who thinks straight about parliamentary sovereignty has long decided that parliament has not stood up very valiantly to what amounted to a putsch, with a rushed triggering of something exceptionally dangerous to our nation, even before it had been carefully considered or outcome studies had been duly done, pored over and debated. The referendum was interpreted in one way when it could have been interpreted in many other ways.
It is only through the long process of reflection and protests that we have been going through over the past years that any of these facts have gradually become available. A large part of the population has now become engaged in thinking and debating the issues and that is a good thing. Perhaps, this is the true dividend of Brexit: that people are coming out of hiding and are learning about the EU and making it their personal business to engage with it. Slowly but surely Britain is becoming more realistic about the need to work together with our continent. Old illusions about British grandeur, exceptionalism and superiority are fading, as with every day that goes by the loss of British influence because of Brexit becomes more obvious.
What kind of country are we creating?
Nevertheless, we are still failing to debate the salient moral and ethical issues. Very few people are talking about the philosophical and ideological questions that need to be considered. In the media Brexit is still largely debated in terms of the economic and political issues that we are immediately faced with. We have been induced into thinking of Brexit in moral terms, in completely the wrong way. Even today, nearly three years later, when the moral corruption of Brexit has become blatantly evident we are still misleadingly speaking of Brexit as a divorce and alongside this simile, many people continue to speak and think of it as an affirmation of Britain’s independence and separate identity. It is important to be aware of the impact that such images have on people’s mindset and to challenge them.
In a world where personal autonomy and self-affirmation outstrip our concern for collaboration and community, such figures of speech have been extremely toxic. Those who, like myself, believe that in a global world there is no case for nationalism at any time and who are acutely aware that the EU is the world’s most successful association of nations and the best example of a global peace project, the idea that Brexit is merely a divorce is preposterous. As soon as we buy such similes we become paralysed in our moral reflection. The discussion becomes distorted. For we all know that divorce is not a disaster and sometimes a necessary outcome of bad relationships. We know that relationships can be abusive or damaging to everyone in a family and that divorce can be a healthy thing in order to escape from that. It is clear that the Tory government has used this trick repeatedly to instil the idea that leaving the EU is a challenge, but not a disaster, and is a good thing for Britain in the face of the abuse it has suffered from its unreasonable European partner.
This is a sleight of hand that has been extremely damaging to the debate about Brexit. Like all deception and devious distortion of reality it has damaged people’s trust in politics, but beyond that, in their own country. My epistemic position is that we must regard Britain’s desertion of the European Union as a direct attack on peace in Europe and indeed on international relations in the world at large. It is a defection of our responsibilities in our wider community and many countries perceive this very clearly, though they are polite in holding back this opinion. Most European diplomats have a clear understanding that there is no alternative to our membership of the EU. It is not, as with a marriage, one choice out of many. Our EU membership is as essential as our membership of the UN. It is not elective or casual, but necessary. If we are to play a part in the world, we must be part of the UN. If we are to play a part in Europe, we must be allied to the EU. We are part of Europe de facto, not by choice or by marriage. We do not belong to any other continent, we are geographically part of Europe. We are not even an island any more, nor are we the Western most country on the edge of Europe. We are connected to our continent by the channel tunnel. We are tied together with the 27 other countries that surround us. We are intrinsically interlinked with them in every possible way imaginable. We cannot cut those ties. It is simply not possible. Even if we execute Brexit in an act of madness we would still be confronted with having to obey the very rules and regulations we took part in creating for Europe. We cannot become exempt from these rules, ever. These rules and regulations are permanent and by setting ourselves outside of them we complicate our situation instead of simplifying it. We are truly cutting off our nose to spite our face in an act of craziness. Telling ourselves we can walk away from this essential association and be separate from it is a form of self-deception or wishful thinking.
The grandiosity of Britain
Our grand gesture in setting ourselves apart from the EU is also not very attractive. It is more grandiose than grand and it is more impetuous than intelligent. We really have not thought clearly about this. Europe is now effectively owned by the EU. EU laws are literally what rules the entire continent. We have helped create the EU as the sole and single authority in charge of managing Europe over many decades and this cannot simply be undone or unravelled. This is not something that was imposed on us. It is something we chose to do. For good reasons. It is something we did well, too. The EU is modest in the way in which it wields power over its nations. It respects their autonomy and sovereignty. The EU is ultra-democratic in the way it operates and is preparing to open itself to further forms of democracy, inviting the public to be engaged more closely. It involves all heads of state, all ministers, and all elected representatives of the people in each country. It debates issues thoroughly and with a view to achieving unity and consensus. It does not impose things by competition and power play as we are used to seeing in the UK parliament. It is highly functional and has been extremely successful in providing a safe space for debate about controversial issues, that we used to fight and war over. It is civilisation and global conversation impersonated. So why, have we suddenly decided to wreck it?
It may be because we have taken the petulant view that we could do better in economic terms and perhaps because we have been offered collaboration with the USA and other powers, such as Russia, both of whom have long been jealous of the European success, and who have, not being part of it, experienced it as unfair competition. Somewhere along the line the British people became convinced that they could do better outside of the EU than within it. Somewhere people were misled into the belief that it would be morally and emotionally proper to abandon our commitments. Somehow we ceased to think about our long term safety, considered how we would become isolated or contemplated how we would be deemed by other nations to be unfair and uncooperative, arrogant and invasive.
Doom and gloom
It is not surprising that many people feel exasperated and that the theme of madness is one that is currently frequently in evidence on social media. We have not properly articulated our predicament and yet we feel an impending sense of doom and destruction. This leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed and incomprehension which is then expressed as a form of craziness. People keep saying things like ‘stop the madness’ or ‘Brexit is insanity’. On the other side of the debate, the leavers are speaking increasingly of being bored. They are fed up with the whole scenario and feel either impatient or infuriated with the long process. They had been promised instant change for the better and they wonder when or whether this is now going to happen. Reality is rearing its ugly head: the promises of prosperity cannot be delivered. People like Farage are threatening that if Brexit doesn’t happen there will be riots and he is undoubtedly right about that, but he would be equally right to predict riots if it did happen. Riots happen when people cannot trust in the powers above them to do right by them and when they feel they cannot trust in a rational process to safeguard them. Riots are an expression of despair and anger. They happen when people are not being listened to and when they are forced into powerlessness. This is how to drive people mad. And it is beginning to look a lot as if Brexit is definitely doing that. It is a product that is not deliverable as advertised and people who voted for it are understandably cross and angry, frustrated and upset. Many feel alienated and have lost all trust in politics. British people feel enraged.
Powerlessness and the silenced majority
Many of us are frustrated because we are not being listened to. The referendum was a long time in the past and it has led, not to concerted action and clarity, but to confusion and a sense of unreality. For those who have taken the trouble to do their research it has become all too obvious that the entire Brexit enterprise is a hare-brained project that was never thought through carefully. I did a trawl of Tweets and Facebook posts from exasperated leavers and remainers and noticed how often both of them mention that they have been saying the same thing for two and a half years over and over again and that it seems that nobody is listening. The feeling is that nobody in power is listening or thinking clearly about the issues. Few things drive us more mad than the sense that we understand what is wrong with a situation but are powerless to solve the problem and change things. Politicians themselves look increasingly powerless and non-plussed and many people have lost faith in the political process that has brought us into this frustrating land of limbo and distress. We are aware that the country has lost its clear purpose and sense of direction. All our rallies and marches and petitions have ultimately made us feel unheard.
What are people saying?
I put the question to people on Facebook and Twitter in various groups on various platforms some months ago, asking: ‘Is Brexit driving us mad?’ and here are some of the hundreds of answers I got back. I thought it was very enlightening. As you will see, Britain may be paralysed with uncertainty, but British people are sharpening their minds about what is happening and have strong views about it. We may be very fed up and very cross with politics, but we are not about to lose our minds. The people are outraged and are becoming more and more cynical. This person sums up the outrage to perfection:
‘Brexit is run by a range of tribal leaders bouncing up and down.. the best way to stay sane is to get our kids to lobby for full Euro and Schengen membership.’
Many people agreed with a conclusion I arrived at from a survey of the state of mind of remainers, that the best way to stay mentally and emotionally in good shape in relation to what is happening is to be continuously connected to each other. Those who disconnect fall into despair. Those who keep talking to each other gradually make sense of things. It is the very act of campaigning and talking to each other on social media that keeps people sane and hopeful by providing a sense of purpose and direction. Being part of the pro EU movement and finding support and friends through this, was the one benefit of the whole sorry saga of Brexit, many observed.
People were also clear that we should no longer let ourselves be divided between leavers and remainers, as many people who voted Leave originally are just as upset and disgusted with the status quo as those who voted to Remain or those who abstained. There is a dawning awareness that austerity will become far worse because of Brexit instead of things getting better. There is a lot of outrage about the way in which voters were misled and given false information. There is tremendous support for the idea that a Final Say on the situation is a necessary condition for democracy to be observed and for voters to have a chance to give or withhold their informed consent for what has been happening in reality. The idea that there is no longer a silent majority in the UK, but rather a silenced majority is particularly strong amongst those who are part of the five million, i.e. who are one of the 3.5 million EU27 citizens and 1.5 million Brits in Europe who were deprived of a vote in the referendum.
There is a growing feeling that people should not allow politicians to artificially divide them. It is more important to talk to each other and bridge the divide by facing the reality of what is being done to our country, together.
The need for open public debate
Many who responded replied with phrases like ‘suspend or revoke article 50’ or ‘stop Brexit’, but more and more people are arguing their points with ideas like ‘there is no mandate for what is happening’ or ‘nobody voted for leaving the single market’ or ‘no-one voted to be poorer’. There was a general dissatisfaction with the lack of representation of such ideas in parliament. People felt their politicians paid too much heed to the now discredited outcome of an old referendum and not enough to the voices raised in protest. There was a sense that there is a dearth of public debate. The media portray biased views instead of allowing for people to express their frustrations. It seems as if people want to have a real say in a democratic way: they want their voices heard rather than just have their votes counted. This seems important and it is certainly worth considering creating democratic think tanks or wisdom councils or better still a national citizens’ assembly. It worked for Northern Ireland, so it is definitely worth a try.
Too little too late
This is so the more important as many voices commented on the inappropriateness of making a decision of this importance through a plebiscite. People are suspicious of political motives behind that, especially in light of the fact that the referendum was supposed to be merely advisory and had no supermajority attached to it, for that reason. People didn’t think they were going mad, but they did feel that it was aggravating and madness inducing not to be listened to. There is much dissatisfaction about the offhand way in which petitions are being dealt with by government and parliament. The replies given to them are not a real response to people’s carefully expressed concerns. They perceive this as getting brushed off. People were outraged at the failure of government to organize any further real public consultation in the face of a complete lack of factual and reliable information about the real issues and consequences of Brexit. One of the respondents, Vince Will Millard, expressed it in these words: ‘The public debates and conversations we are now having, should have been had years ago’. It was something that dozens of people agreed with. The process of the referendum had been hasty and haphazard and the decision to leave the EU had not been based in thorough checks and balances, had not been researched as fully as it should have been before it was debated and presented to the public. Some were of the view that the people had been given too much responsibility and would now be held accountable for a decision that had now been clearly shown to be foolish and damaging. People could not understand why politicians were not themselves making these points and were persevering with a course of action that seemed blind and not in the nation’s interest. Some even called what was happening a form of psychopathy: the wishful desire to impose one’s will to power on the world with no thought for the effect on others.
The personal and emotional cost
Some responded in more personal ways stating that they had felt as if Brexit would drive them mad, because of all these contradictions. They had noticed that the things that are happening in the country seem irrational and make no sense. Almost everyone agreed that there is a huge gap between what people feel and the discourse of politicians. This was upsetting and bewildering to them. Some people suggested it was as if we had been living in an alternative reality for the past years, because we weren’t really finding out the truth of what was happening, as the media had become more about propaganda than about news and it was hard to know what was really going on. Some pointed out that it was hard to credit our government with any kind of knowledge or sensibility or diplomacy and that this was utterly unacceptable, but also extremely confusing as it did not match expectations. Many people remarked that they felt that Britain had become so different to what it used to be. It used to be about decency, democracy, diplomacy, fair play and international leadership and had become reduced to acting out in exactly the opposite way. This was a cause of great sadness to many.
Some people felt so alienated from what had been happening that they reported still waking up each day with a feeling of doom and gloom when remembering Brexit. Others spoke of feeling as if they are living in a bad dream each day and were constantly hoping and wishing they would wake up from the nightmare to go back to normality. John Kew said it very clearly: ‘it is like one of those weird dreams where you know you are asleep and struggle to wake up’.
Suspicions and hidden meanings
Many referred to experiencing a dark sense of suspicion about what was happening behind the scenes, in secret. Some were developing elaborate conspiracy theories about our collaboration with the Russians, or the Chinese or the Americans. Others spoke of vested interests in finance, or of secret papers that would be revealed eventually to show us what nasty tricks had been played on us all. There is no doubt that the general feeling is that there is a lot more to what is happening with Brexit than what the population at large is being told about it. This is a disturbing feature of what is happening, that could do with a lot more attention. We are in the same situation as a family in which the parents are keeping secrets and are forcing their children into actions that are inexplicable and clearly not advantageous, for reasons not disclosed to them. The worst thing is that the parents keep claiming that this is what the children themselves wanted, which is clearly not the case as the children were asked quite a different question three years ago and have not had a chance to speak up ever after. People experience this as being coerced into obedience.
It was abundantly clear that people knew that the situation is exceptional and is more like living under siege or in a war than in ordinary times. The turmoil they experience about it depends greatly on their level of personal involvement. A great many people felt threatened and worried about their future, the future of their business or of their children. Some acknowledged that it was so upsetting that they tried to stick their heads in the sand, distract themselves or look the other way. People were deeply suspicious of what was being done to them and they speculated about this in words like Diana Stevenson’s: ‘It is all explained in the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. We are being primed to accept disaster capitalism and Trump’s conditions for a ‘trade deal’. ‘
Some concern was expressed for leavers who were seen to have been driven mad by the tabloids, being given such misinformation and having their illusions of a better world and their anger at this not manifesting built up over so many years, that they were now out of touch with reality and would end up devastated when the truth would emerge after catastrophic Brexit.
Caring for the country
So many worried about the harm that was being done to the country that this was probably the dominant and most shared theme. People in this respect used metaphors like ‘we are self-harming’ or ‘we are cutting off our own hands and feet’ or we are ‘isolating ourselves’. All were unstated references to the idea that the actions and behaviours of the UK at the moment are similar to the actions and behaviours of people who are not thinking straight and are in a state of madness or whose faculties are temporarily ineffective. People quoted and reposted various cartoons that had this motif too, such as the New Yorker’s cartoon of a Brit silly walking off the cliffs of Dover. Jeremy Newman reminded us that even the pro leave cartoons had something of madness and sadness about them: ‘the brave little ship casting off into the unknown, its crew ecstatic at the prospect of no more than an ever-retreating sunset’.
In the same context people spoke of mass hysteria that had led to the disastrous result and that still fuelled the fighting between the two camps when actually the safety and future of all of us was at stake and we were all on the same sinking ship. Heribert Löffler pushed this idea a little further remarking that: ‘the politicians who accidentally conjured up the monster that is Brexit are now mostly too afraid (or fundamentally unable) to confront it.’ He and others spoke of the waning authority of politicians who are no longer able to keep the country safe. Others remarked that politicians need a body overseeing them as they appear out of control and untrustworthy, ill equipped for the task. The lack of EU knowledge in politicians was noted by many of those who had expertise in this area and who regretted that the country was steered by the ignorant rather than by those who are expert.
Avoiding the madness
Some threw all caution to the wind and made statements like: ‘the whole world has gone mad, so I will no longer let myself be affected by it’ or ‘driven mad by Brexit I have decided not to vote ever again’ or ‘I have decided to leave this idiotic country that has taken leave of its senses’. Though these are all anecdotal and individual responses the fact that there were hundreds of these should make us sit up and take notice. We are not living through some ordinary crisis. This is a national crisis and our sanity, certainly for some, is in the balance as a result. Many people responded with simple evidence of their symptoms of mental health disturbances. Others pointed out that they had physical as well as mental and emotional symptoms, all generated from the stress and worry over Brexit.
As always the EU27 citizens in the UK and the Brits in Europe had the strongest views, as they are at the sharp end of the pressure. People spoke of being utterly appalled by the level of racial abuse and xenophobia on social media and in their neighbourhoods. They gave examples of why they were leaving the UK in the face of this bad treatment which was simply no longer tolerable. Cathy Goldthorpe said: ‘it has reached levels of depravity I have not witnessed before’. Susan Ali resonated with this and said that the issue was now to stop people becoming bad rather than just mad. Wouter Servaas said: ‘What is driving me mad is the legitimisation of xenophobia. The ruling class is ignoring the criminality that has tainted the campaign in the run up to the referendum and MPs cling stubbornly to a no deal Brexit, regardless of the cost’.
The threat to morality and doubts in humanity
We can see how people’s thoughts move forwards from their own pain to the mental and emotional cost to both themselves and others, and from there to the moral cost of Brexit to Britain. There were some very insightful remarks about this. People were saying that their trust in human goodness had been harmed by watching politicians push through Brexit against the interest of the young in the country, who were eighty percent in favour of remaining in the EU. Some also felt that the attacks they had suffered from the other camp had been devastating to their sense of safety and had made them aware of a kind of vicious anger they had never experienced before. Some said they felt disappointed in their fellow citizens or anxious about the future in the face of the divide that now existed. People felt that there was no longer a feeling that other people could basically be trusted and that they weren’t sure about speaking about their true thoughts in public anymore. Many used the theme of shame and guilt to express their wish to dissociate themselves from what Britain was doing in the world at large. They were concerned about us offending our cousins in Europe and they were in profound disagreement with the spirit of jingoism and nationalistic bluster that politicians regularly exhibited. Others were equally in arms over the politics of blaming that politicians resorted to in a last attempt not to take responsibility for their own destructive policies. Blaming the EU was seen as adding insult to injury and was out of keeping with the usual British fair-play. In short, nationalist Britain had become very un-British and those who were moralizing about the EU often came across as rather immoral.
One thing we can certainly conclude from this is that the country is not going passively where politicians are leading them. We are watching every move and criticising every word our politicians are saying. The repeated mantra of democracy is no longer swallowed by anyone. People are aware that they wish for their country to be more upstanding than it is currently being and to question the morality of Brexit, as outright immoral and dangerous. Frequently people mentioned their disappointment in the BBC, which they used to trust as an impartial source of news, but which had clearly become a mouthpiece for the politically most extreme elements in the ruling party. Some expressed anger about this, but many others felt personally offended or hurt by this lack of loyalty from an organization they had pinned their hopes on.
We can conclude that most people feel uneasy or queasy about what is happening. Some try to live on as normal, in denial of their discomfort, putting a brave face on it. Others keep quiet, but few are happy about the darkening of British skies. Most are now aware of the threats ahead and the lack of preparedness for us to deal with them. The court cases have been stepping stones towards moral reflection. When Miller won hers soon after the referendum, it reminded us that it is parliament that is the basis of our democratic sovereignty, not a plebiscite or government. We also saw, for the first time that Brexit supporters were in denial of this and that our own government accused our judges of partiality, when they were simply upholding the law. This shocked people into awareness of what was actually going on. The law is there to decide on right and wrong. It helps us to make sense of situations that are threatening our sanity: it safeguards us and keeps us on common ground when we are at risk of becoming divided. The Webster and Shindler cases showed us that the EU is also a guarantor of sanity and rationality and will have something to say about things like the illegality of removing EU citizenship from UK citizens, or treating EU citizens in the UK with disdain and irregularity. The Watson case tackled the illegality of the triggering of article 50 at the root, rather than just its consequences. It showed us that the referendum would have been declared null and void had it been binding. The paradox of having our hands tied by a non-binding referendum is lost on no one but our government. Yet nobody has ever properly challenged the madness of making 3.5 million EU27 citizens illegal overnight, in case we leave with no deal. People have been fobbed off by the idea that these people can now obtain ‘settled status’. It hasn’t yet caused the scandal it should have. For there are now people who are very much part of British society and who do essential jobs in our NHS, in academia, in hospitality and in agriculture, but who are made to apply to stay in their adopted country, in their own homes and whose voting rights in local elections are being removed from them. Human rights are being ignored and this should raise huge ethical objections.
We know there is a small percentage of people who are genuinely xenophobic amongst us. These people may have had the upper hand for the past years, as well as too much bandwidth from the media, but by Jove, by and large the British are a kind and sensible folk who do not think it is right to start removing their neighbours, their nurses and doctors, their teachers and academics from the country, for no good reason and with obvious dire consequences. For a little while the decent people obeyed and silently watched on as the ravages began, but now the tide has turned, as we have discovered the facts and see for ourselves what is being done to the country, in our name. However which way they voted in 2016, people object to this Brexit Britain mentality. Most of us do not want Brexit of any form or shape anymore, for we know that Brexit would be like a plague upon us for decades to come if we went through with it. Now that people can see that it is an own goal that will hurt us all and that severs us from decency, we want a chance to turn things around. We can tell right from wrong. This is not about leavers and remainers anymore. It has become a moral issue, an issue of principle. We crave being able to find back a safe haven, a harbour in which once again we can work together for prosperity, fairness, peace and decency. It is that kind of vision we seek in our politicians, that kind of statesmanship, stamina and courage, that can cut through the Gordian knot of insanity. What is needed now is for our politicians to admit defeat and make their mea culpa. They need to take responsibility for this big blunder, allowing us all to express regret and remorse. The nation needs to be helped to face reality and to grieve for what has been lost in the process of our three years of madness. Only then can we abandon the disastrous course we are on, counting the cost and rekindling our hope in being able to build a better future.