Are you stressed out by Brexit?

A social media post by a friend of mine, citing Brexit-induced stress for lack of sleep made me realise this week that I feel the same way. Even if I don’t reach for my phone to check the headlines if I wake up in the middle of the night, the impending disaster facing the country is never far from my mind.

Then this morning an email arrives in our inbox telling us about Headspace’s new meditation packs for stressed out British people with one targeted at the almost three quarters of us who cite Brexit as something that is worrying them.

I’m not sure that a few moments’ meditation will help with the worry about what happens to our already crumbling public services if, as every forecast suggests, we will be worse off and we don’t have the people here to work in them.

I guess those of us who want to stay in the EU should be stressed. While the chance to get out of this mess has never been bigger, there’s a pretty tortuous process ahead over the next few weeks to get there. It’s a bit like the three dimensional chess they played on Star Trek: The Next Generation. When is the best time to play the People’s Vote card? In the Times on Friday, Matthew Parris said that Tory MPs should wait until after the deal has been defeated to come out for another vote and definitely shouldn’t do it now:

Are you mad? Of course not! Your local Tory activists would be horrified. How would you square this with your promise to do all you could to help make Brexit happen? This “People’s Vote” stuff is quite nakedly a die-hard Remainer project. The last thing you need is to be tarred with their brush.

So you’ll probably vote for Mrs May’s deal: though (as you’ll tell your local Tory association) with a troubled mind, and out of loyalty.

But what about when (or if) she nevertheless loses her meaningful vote? Ah, the morning after that defeat will feel so different.

People will be talking about “crashing out”, others reminding us there’s no Commons majority for crashing out. Nor for Mrs May’s deal. Nor for remaining in the EU. Nor for “Norway” or “EEA” because these rob us of control of immigration, the only advantage to May’s deal. With no majority for any way forward, our democracy will have hit the buffers hard, parliament and the executive deadlocked.

How do we get out of this? Well, we could always ask the people to adjudicate . . .

Of course the risks of leaving it till then is that somehow the Deal gets through by the narrowest of margins the first time round. MPs will be huddling in corners plotting, but will they be telling the truth? Are the numbers the Whips are crunching accurate? Who knows?

The stress is not going to go away any time soon. As Liberal Democrats with a social conscience, we don’t worry primarily for ourselves, but for the poorest people in our society who are already struggling. All we can do is keep fighting and sustain each other on this very rocky road.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Becket 2nd Dec '18 - 12:07pm

    The stress involved in obtaining the peoples vote is peanuts to the stress involved in obtaining the right result if we get one.

    For a start we will have to face the following claims from Brexiteers:
    * Project Fear did not happen, so why should we believe the “experts” now?
    * UK Growth rate has exceeded the growth rates in the EU. (Reality check needed)
    * Investment is going ahead outside the EU, e.g. HSBC in China
    * We have the second highest Foreign Direct Investment in the World.(They fail to point out most of it is with the EU)
    * The vast majority of our laws are controlled by the EU (Red Herring number one)

    We must face these with positive arguments for remaining in the EU. We must promote our values, as highlighted by the adjacent post from Katherine Pindar. We must address the domestic issues that led to the Brexit vote. We should highlight changes we wish to see in the EU. We must not use this as an opportunity for personal attacks on May or anybody else. Tackle the arguments not the person, and tackle them positively.
    Are we ready??

  • David,
    You are wrong the last time the “When they go low, we go high” was tried we ended up with Trump. Being the better man/woman might make us all feel good about ourselves but we will be good loosers. So no failing to attack May, Mogg and Alexander aka Boris is not a winning plan, nailing their defciences to a door is. A humbling fact is many voters don’t do facts they do emotions, so aim at them or lose.

  • David Becket 2nd Dec '18 - 2:13pm

    The average voter does not like politicians slagging each other off, they expect them to get on with the job. By all means attack the policies, but not the person. When Rees Mogg talks rubbish say so, but do not go for him because of his mannerisms and wealth. As for Trump, choosing between Trump and Clinton is not easy.

  • Sandra Hammett 2nd Dec '18 - 3:36pm

    ‘We must face these with positive arguments for remaining in the EU. We must promote our values, as highlighted by the adjacent post from Katherine Pindar. We must address the domestic issues that led to the Brexit vote. We should highlight changes we wish to see in the EU. We must not use this as an opportunity for personal attacks on May or anybody else. Tackle the arguments not the person, and tackle them positively.’ said Vince Cable to his party.
    If only.

  • David,
    Voters might not like it but it sways their vote, so I’m afraid reality does indeed say you need to attack the person. Tis sad I agree but if you want to win sometimes you need to meet fire with a flamethrower.

  • Frankie
    We didn’t end up with Trump. American’s vote in American elections. What anyone outside of the US thinks is mostly irrelevant to actual Americans. This is the crux of the absurd notion of globalism and why it comes into conflict democratic norms. Virtually all the electoral systems of the world occur within national borders amongst national electorates and are mostly decided by domestic concerns . Nation states are a set of arbitrary borders. They have legal, cultural and political heft. Saying we ended up with Trump is as meaningful as saying we ended up with Shinzo Abe or Andrew Holness. I know some people want to believe that there is a world community, but there isn’t and certainly not one with any real democratic mechanism for asserting itself above national political systems.

  • Should read “nation states are not just a set of arbitrary borders”.

  • Glen,
    The “When they go low, we go high” is a quote from Michelle Obama, that stragy failed and the world ended up with Trump. Now what the President of the United States affects us all, even you in your little village. The fact you seem to be unable to see that, is not a surprise as it appears events end at the edge of the village as far as you are concerned.

  • David Allen 2nd Dec '18 - 6:38pm

    Once a referendum campaign begins, if it happens, the No-Dealers will launch a ferocious attack. They will lead on free movement and refugees, conflating the two. If we claim that these are two different issues, they will contemptuously say that we are splitting hairs. They will point to the Italian populist government pressure to disperse refugees elsewhere within the EU. They will point out that when climate change floods Bangladesh, refugee pressures will enormously intensify. Knowing that No Deal is scary, they will seek to convince voters that the alternatives are even scarier, and that the only way to protect Britain is to pull up the drawbridge. We had better have a strategy ready to deal with that attack.

    Past history suggests that we will begin by loftily dismissing it as tabloid scaremongering. The opinion polls will then tell us that we are losing. Then we will panic. Some of us will declaim even more loudly that there is nothing to fear from refugees. Others will belatedly start talking about the opportunities for managed immigration if we stay in the EU. Our opponents will laugh at our disunity, and point out that the EU are in a complete muddle about refugees.

    Then they will pick up Jo Johnson’s remarks about “vassalage”. Jo Johnson, of course, wants to stick with the reasonable deal we have now, and thereby avoid the “vassalage” deal being promoted by May. But that’s not how the No-Dealers will parlay it. They will say that even Remainers have admitted that the EU want to make Britain a vassal state, and that it is now time for us to stand up to their tyranny, as our fathers and grandfathers did to Hitler. Yes, that’s outrageous rubbish, but I fear that many will be convinced by it. The No-Dealers have wind in their sails. Trumpism won an election!

    We need to be saying, now, that we will demand reform from within the EU. We need to be saying, before it looks like a forced response to our opponents, that we will manage migration within the EU, and that we are not going to let anyone else dictate British refugee policy. If we do not do these things, we are at grave risk of losing a People’s Vote, and of victory by “No Deal”.

  • Indeed David they will. The correct response of cause is to say
    1. Most immigration to the UK is from outside the EU and our government has choosen not to stop it because they need cheap labour for their chums.
    2. We have a veto on accepting refugees and if our government cared to they could use it.
    3. If we left the EU wouldn’t the French just push more immigrants at us by opening up the ports
    4. If immigrants don’t come from Europe they will just be brought here from other parts of the world.

    So the line is most immigration is actually a choice of our government. If we left the EU why would be expect them to prevent immigrants travelling here.

  • Frank
    I’m aware of where the quote comes from. I was just pointing out that only Americans can vote in American elections. I just find the use of “we” odd because it suggest that somehow the Lib Dems have any baring on American elections. As I was trying to explain, the problem for all you believers in globalism is that most of the democratic mechanisms and voting patterns throughout the world are national. On top of which the desire to alter them is essentially a fashionable minority hobby horse with little traction.
    I don’t live in a village.

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '18 - 1:20am

    Frankie, yes I agree. Farage said that net immigration would not fall, and that we should be happy to bring in more Bangladeshis and fewer Romanians. May, with her “queue jumping” comments, clearly agrees. No doubt it is important to sweatshop employers that Bangladeshis are even cheaper than Romanians.

    Now, I think there are two reasonable view one might take on this question.

    One is that we accept the principles of the EU, that we aim to create a common European home for all the European nations, and thus we don’t think of Romanians as “queue jumping” at all. On the contrary, we want to make it as easy to move from Romania to Britain (and back) as it is to move from Glasgow to London, or California to Ohio. On that basis, we will treat Romanians differently from Bangladeshis, or for that matter from white Americans, and our reasons for doing so are not racist.

    An alternative view might be that we would prefer to leave the EU and abandon the idea of a common European home, in which case we might at first sight be quite attracted to the idea of treating potential Romanian and Bangladeshi immigrants on equal terms. But – Would we rationally want to go to the wire on that, and accept a massive hit to our trading economy, just so that we could pose as best friends of Bangladesh? Here is the EU, offering us massive incentives if we will play ball with their concept of a common European home. Why should we turn their “offer” (to Remain) down, given that if we do that, all we will achieve will be to replace some white-faced immigrants with some brown-faced immigrants? When we will not actually reduce immigration, and, deliberately going out of our way to change its ethnic mix in favour of brown people will cost us a fortune?

    We need to make these arguments. They won’t be heard unless we shout.

  • David Allen 3rd Dec '18 - 1:26am

    Frankie (part 2) – I also agree strongly with your point 3 above. Brexit would make us Europe’s pariah nation. Yes, Norway and Switzerland have also stayed aloof from the EU, but they have done that in a fairly non-antagonistic way. The British Tories have identified Europe as the enemy. It will hardly be surprising if, should we leave, the French and others will accept that description and act accordingly. So, a million Eritreans have landed in Sicily in 2022? Easy, bus them all up to Calais, leave lots of empty boats lying around, and let the enemy Brits cope!

  • Sue Sutherland 3rd Dec '18 - 3:11pm

    David Allen we have already been Europe’s pariah nation when de Gaulle kept vetoing our entry into the Common Market. When we finally joined it was Brits being immigrants to other countries as depicted by Auf Wiedersehen Pet. I truly can’t understand why my generation mostly voted Leave when they must remembered that humiliation.

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