Brexit anxiety: Panic on the streets of London

by Jonathan Todd

I don’t, unfortunately, think it is an exaggeration to say that I am terrified of Brexit. I burst in to tears – not something I do frequently – on the morning of 24 June 2016, a few hours before Jeremy Corbyn advocated invoking Article 50. It seemed to me that my country had invited catastrophe and now, sadly, I feel surer of that.

“There was always a core who could not accept the outcome; it has swelled,” reckons Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times. I am not sure that this is quite right and certainly do not consider myself part of such a grouping. While we should be vigilant to Russian interference in our democracy and Vote Leave broke electoral law, I do not question the legitimacy of the actions taken following the 2016 referendum.

Theresa May was perfectly entitled to set out her redlines, to invoke Article 50, and to proclaim, “Brexit means Brexit”. Albeit the redlines have been mugged by reality, her government has appeared unprepared for the consequences of Article 50, and “Brexit means Brexit” is no less a meaningless platitude than “a red, white and blue Brexit”.

In the face of this staggering incompetence, what has remained constant is not lack of acceptance at the outcome of the 2016 referendum but – pace Shrimsley – unease about where we are headed. No convincing leadership has emerged to meet worries about the ending of a relationship that has been integral to the UK for approaching half a century.

“The easiest trade deal in history” came to not be that easy. “The exact same benefits of single market membership” are illusive. Only Michael Caine is still saying that German car manufacturers will make everything ok.

While Caine might prefer to be poor outside the EU than rich in it, I am a small business owner and mortgage payer full of trepidation. A parent of two kids gripped by foreboding for their future.

In which, on our current trajectory, contrary to Caine’s expectation, the UK will not be the (poorer) master of our fate. We have a bitter foretaste of this in Theresa May holding Donald Trump’s hand and rolling out the red carpet for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as Tory MEPs vote against sanctions on Viktor Orbán. We cannot stop the world and get off, we can only decide with whom we confront it, and on what terms. Brexit is pushing us towards those who share fewer of our values and away from those with whom we have more in common.

As much as I am concerned for what this portends for my family, I am petrified about what it means for our country. The harder we Brexit, the poorer we will be. The poorer we are, the less able we will be to afford public services. The more inadequate public services, the more discontented we will be. Those who thought that they had nothing to lose in voting for Brexit may, regrettably, find that they forfeit more than they bargained for.

I wonder how many of the 700,000 protestors in London on Saturday were motivated by hope or fear. There will be little basis for renewed hope in whatever deal that Theresa May, finally, strikes with the EU, only deepening fears. On that basis, being in breach of the tests set out by Labour, opposition MPs should have no doubts about voting against.

If these Labour votes succeed in defeating the government, then what?

No deal? Not even the Prime Minister believes that. “If it were the case that at the end of the negotiation process actually it was a no deal,” she said last week, “then actually that would come back to this House and then we would see what position this House would take in the circumstances.”

General Election? While this is Labour’s preference, it remains to be seen whether it is of the Tories and the EU. Without the support of whom, it is hard to see it happening. As reluctant Tories would withhold the votes required from them to trigger an early election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, while the EU may need to agree to extend Article 50 to prevent an election, due to the time it would take up, tipping in to no deal.

Referendum? Again, this would require the willingness of the EU to extend Article 50, which, if they see a referendum as being more likely to bring closure than an election, they may be more prepared to do. It may also be more palatable to Tories than a general election that may produce PM Corbyn.

Tories need to decide which they are most prepared to risk: PM Corbyn (brought closer by an election) or Brexit (imperilled by a referendum). The EU need to decide if there are circumstances in which they would indulge an election and/or referendum. Labour must wait on these decisions and carry through our policy agreed at conference: support for a referendum, if an election cannot be secured.

When the dust settles, I want to be as confident in the future as Shrimsley, or even Caine, now appear. As do 700,000 others. But we remain a long way, and doubtless some sleepless nights, from that. There was a sense of hope on Saturday, but the anxiety persists.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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16 Responses to “Brexit anxiety: Panic on the streets of London”

  1. peter carabine says:

    So many of us are with you on this and the remarkable thing is how so many of the voters were and are still convinced that somehow Brexit will cure something; rather like bloodletting in the medieval period.

    Whether we like it not this was the triumph of a far right-wing ideology ( UKIP & Tory Hard Right) at its worst and explained simply by the long-held view by most sociologists, political scientists and economists ‘that ideologies disguise the true cause of things’. So ‘migrant labour’ & the ‘EU in Brussels’ became the folk devils and voters absorbed the relentless propaganda of the billionaires and their puppet editors who own the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph and Murdoch press including the Sun. This was especially true of older & less informed readers.

    The BBC too for the first time in the post-war period lost its impartiality and intelligence and became an echo chamber for the Brexit men like Farage and BJ & shockingly ignored the economic impacts of Brexit reflecting the Brexit press news agenda. The BBC overwhelmingly became a populist mouthpiece hence R4 audience fall off.

    But this Perfect storm was not helped by the Remain side. Unlike the clever well organised Brexit elite there was no passion, no accusations of being anti-patriotic, little contact with the voters who would vote Brexit. Corbyn and the Hard Left who supported him deeply disappointed for their failure to raise a consciousness that Brexit would hit prices, squeeze wages, labour/human rights, relocate businesses, and lead to layoffs, reduced investment and foregone economic growth hitting the public sector hard.

    Miserably some on the Hard Left hung on to the shirt tails of the UKIP populism revival seeing it as a chance to hit new Labour, centre politics etc and blame our own side. Madness as any Marxist knows the economy determines most things at the end of the day and the Brexit ideology blinds families in the regions to the real true causes of why they will remain disadvantaged for many years.

  2. paul barker says:

    The Referendum saw 17 million people vote for 17 million different Brexits, now we are faced with a single Brexit, those voters have a right to say if its what they envisaged.
    Democracy is aprocess, not an event. The Election of 2017 wasnt an undemocratic attack on the Election of 2015, neither did the second invalidate the first, it just replaced it.
    Now we know what Brexit is we need a second Vote, in Parliament or the Country.

  3. Tafia says:

    “The easiest trade deal in history” came to not be that easy.

    You are confusing two entirely unrelated things – the Withdrawal Agreement and a future Trade Deal.

    Negotiations for a trade deal with the EU do not start until the day after we leave the EU – they aren’t allowed to, by design. What is currently being negotiated is the withdrawal agreement that will cover the frst couple of years only, while trade deal negotiations commence and take place.

    And as for extending Article 50 – forget it. If you follow events properly you would know that there are around 6 EU countries that will veto it and you would also know that the EU itself wants us gone before the campaign period starts for next year’s European elections. We are to be gone done and dusted by then so that we are not an issue.

    You are also misquoting the PM. The rest of your article is just as shoddily presented.

  4. Tafia says:

    The Loser’s March figures have been released ..

    Sky – 700,000 (always dodgey over figures)
    BBC – 500,000 (lower because they are subsidised and can’t afford a bigger one)
    Met police 150-180,000 (lowest probably due to austerity cuts)

    Which begs the questionto you Remaniacs. Who do you believe? Sky News or the Met Police? Which one is lying on a colossal scale?

  5. John P Reid says:

    A Month From Now Corbyn will have to make the biggest lie he has ever Made and pretend he doesn’t Want brexit, telling them to Vote against The Government whip.
    But it won’t fool A Single MP on the Back benches ,he Will always Be the Biggest Brexiter, and I disagree auth acorbyn on everything Else, Except the treatment of the Kurds and Rrident Renewal,
    Corbyn will have to Tell the CLP go with Brexit, ans it will wipe the Smile of all those Metropolitan Momentum Members who think Corbyn Voted Remain.

  6. Anne says:

    I agree totally with the sentiments expressed in this article.
    Although I accept that the effects of Brexit will not affect me as much as others, but then I think well yes it will because there will be less money for public services of any kind and that affects every single person. Brexit is absolutely ridiculous on every single level.
    Ministers such as Chris Grayling (failing Grayling) speaks in a deadpan way as if it is acceptable to be making massive parking lots out motorways in the event of a no deal. Or business people likes James Dyson shouting for Brexit now we find he is to build his electric cars abroad and crying because his farm supplements are to stop. Alan Bennett was quite right when he said we are ill prepared for Brexit.
    Like Jonathan I really don’t know how this will all end up, but one thing I am sure of every single person will be worse off.

  7. anon says:

    So, Jonathan Todd cried when the Brexit result was announced.

    Did he give a toss about people losing their pensions because of the UK dabbling in the ERM: one man I knew of committed suicide.

    Did he care about those people who worked tirelessly to get a vote on Maastricht and Lisbon – no, he felt it was the right of the UK’s political class to impose those things on people, no matter what they thought.

    Did he even shed a tear for the dead and dismembered bodies that his hero Blair left in the countries that he sent our forces into?

    Well, I’ve some news for Jonathan Todd – and he’d better buy a whole lorry full of tissues, because he’s going to do a lot more crying.

    The people of this country are afraid; they see their children groomed, raped, and blown up – and their politicians waving it on. No tears there for Jonathan Todd.

    They are sick of their voices being shut down by the Jonathan Todds of the UK whilst the UK people are sneered at, ignored, and consigned to history.

    They have had enough of, and utterly reject, this Godawful ‘progressive’ NGO-led New World Order that sees democracy as an inconvenience, people as dispensable collateral, and the great God Soros as its spiritual leader.

    Save your sanctimonious and self-serving tears, Mr Todd – I’ve seen the damage that you and your sort have done to the people of this country. It’s us who should be crying.

    Brexit? Bring it on – I haven’t had this much hope in my heart for many years.

  8. Ian says:

    The mystery is why any of you are still in the Labour Party.

  9. Barry Gilheany says:


    I would have more respect for you and what you stand for if you had put your name to the populist, conspiracist drivel which you have written with the racist dog whistle comments about ” the great God Soros” and politicians “waving on” the grooming, raping and blowing up of children. .

  10. John P Reid says:

    Ian, because the Libdems, haven’t distanced themselves from their quotes they pretended to have about being too the left of Blair 10 years ago.

  11. Vern says:

    The mystery is why the likes of Peter Carabine, Paul Barker, Anne and their likes are still hanging around. I do hope you will have the good grace to accept and thank the 70% of constituencies who voted to leave.
    If you have been watching over the past 2 years have you not been appalled at the language the EU has used towards us? All we have asked to do is “leave the club” !
    Labour Leave has some reasonable conversations on Brexit occassionally and might help you appreciate your compatriots concerns and reasons for leaving – if you can be arsed to listen to a different opinion!

  12. Tafia says:

    @Ian – No, the mystery is why anyone is in the Labour Party.

  13. Vern says:

    Barry Gilheany – it is not populist nor a conspiracy and apologists and ultra liberals like yourself are a far bigger problem and risk for our future. Have you ever considered that your neighbours and countrymen and women have an opinion that may differ from your own? Try listening and understanding some of their concerns and you may find yourself compromising. On your own glib rhetoric that sounds like a Guardian cut and paste job.

  14. John P Reid says:

    Tafia. I quit the Labour Party last week,louise Haigh was very good on PMQs, think the Tories will win the 2022 election
    Was hoping of Setying up A blue Labour Essex Oarty but think up north labour will keep the Brexit vote for now, the Brexit lefties up their find give a shit about political correctness, just haye the Tories di a breakthrough, a new party is unlikely, they similar dislike momentum, so Corbyn knows he has to keep them onside

  15. Anne says:

    Another Tory jumping the sinking ship of Brexit – Jo Johnson.
    Cameron says he wants to return to front line politics – as if that is sensible – he was the one who thought of the referendum that started this disaster we call Brexit. The absolute waste of money on this project is nothing short of negligence.

  16. Anne says:

    O dear it does seem to take some people a little time to realise the reality of situations, especially regarding Brexit. Please do try and keep up – the referendum was two years ago and much has changed – Trump, Russian involvement, lies, financial improprieties, no plans made, poor negotiations- the list goes on and on – sadly the reality of Brexit will be with us for a very long time.

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