Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Dealing with the result of the EU referendum
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of how to resolve conflicts of opinion (SEAL theme: Managing Feelings).
Preparation and materials
You will need a leader and two readers.
Optional: you may wish to use the song ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ by The Clash, in which case you will need the means to play it during the assembly.
Leader: So now we know.
After all the debates, the statistics and the arguments, the British public has voted and the decision is for the UK to leave the European Union. It wasn’t a decisive vote, however. Not far off a 50/50 split, in fact. Some of you here will be pleased with that decision. Some will be disappointed. Others will simply be glad that it’s all over and we can get on with the normal business of life. Maybe there are even those who don’t understand what all the fuss has been about anyway.
Whatever your feelings about this decision, one thing is certain: life won’t be the same as it was. Maybe the biggest problem is that so much division has been created that this country won’t be a united kingdom again for some time.
Reader 1: For instance, Scotland and London voted firmly to stay in the EU.
Reader 2: The West Midlands and the North East of England voted firmly to leave.
Leader: Politicians, business leaders, media personalities and many members of the public have argued their case so strongly that they’ve caused deep divisions in their parties, their communities, their families and their friendships.
Reader 1: David Cameron has resigned as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.
Reader 2: Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, has been criticized for what was seen as his lacklustre approach to the debate.
Reader 1: Worst of all, a popular Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, was assassinated.
Leader: The UK has entered a period of instability. Even the EU itself appears to be under threat.
It can be like that whenever there’s a big decision to be made, whether it’s in our personal life, our family, the school or this local community, never mind the world of politics. It causes deep divisions as strong opinions are vociferously expressed, accusations are flung around and words are used that are later regretted. So how do we begin to rebuild now that the decision has been taken? Here are some suggestions.
Time for reflection
Leader: First, I suggest that we accept what cannot be changed. We may not like the result of the referendum, but we can’t change it. We can’t run the referendum again. A footballer may not agree with a penalty decision that the referee makes, but no amount of arguing will change that decision. Re-marking a test rarely results in a radical rescore. A relationship that has ended isn’t usually revived, despite pleadings and promises. We can commit ourselves to working to change what can be changed, but we can’t go back to how things were before.
Second, I suggest that we spend some time looking at what holds us together. During the referendum debate, most people appeared to agree that education, housing and the NHS are all under pressure. There aren’t enough school places and schools are under-resourced. There isn’t enough rental accommodation and many young adults can’t afford to buy their first home. Queues at GP surgeries and at accident and emergency departments get longer and longer. Waiting lists for operations drag on for months. Maybe MPs could now unite in addressing issues such as this.
At a personal level, when we disagree with each other, there is always more that we hold in common than divides us. It might be a useful exercise to visualize someone with whom we disagree and to list all their good qualities, the experiences we’ve enjoyed together and the times we’ve given one another support. The teacher who criticizes our work probably has our best interests at heart and is trying to motivate us. Our parents and guardians have shared so many of the positive times in our lives. We’re actually working together towards a vision of a successful life, for you and for me.
Finally, I suggest that we use our language carefully when we do all of our discussing. Religious leaders, teachers and the wealthy were often annoyed with Jesus because he sided with the poor and the oppressed in the face of deep levels of inequality. He put across his views strongly, but he never belittled those he criticized, never swore at them, never threatened them. And all of this was underlined by his command that we should love our enemies and act graciously towards those who would oppose us. As we’ve seen in the heat of the referendum debate, it’s a short step from hateful words to damaging actions.
It’s going to be interesting observing what happens in the light of this result. How many promises will be kept? That will probably depend on the leadership election in the Tory party, and maybe even on a general election. How many of the fears that were so vocally expressed will be realized? Will Scotland make another bid for independence? Will the UK be a better place or a worse place?
And what about personally?
- Do you plan to rebuild broken relationships?
- Can you relate again to those who you have disagreed with?
- Is there a brighter future for you? I certainly hope so.
Thank you that we are each individuals with individual opinions.
Remind us of all that binds us together in families, friendship groups, teams and communities.
Show us how to creatively use our differences to discover a new and better way.
Optional: ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ by The Clash.