My family is split over Brexit, and now we want to move abroad | Dear Mariella | Life and style

The dilemma We’ve had a child since the referendum, and I feel a Brexit-related chasm is opening up between our family’s generations. My husband and I are moderate in our political views and both voted to remain in the EU. My parents and mother-in-law voted to leave. I look at my daughter and feel devastated that her world is potentially going to be smaller than mine, with fewer opportunities to live, love and work as she pleases. Our own parents are dependent upon us for varying levels of care. This has been mildly frustrating in the past, but we both have loving families and a strong sense of duty. We’ve talked about leaving the UK for a more open and inclusive society, but don’t want to leave our parents dependent on paid-for care. Whichever option we explore, we’re increasingly resentful our parents voted for us to be in this position (based on various arguments, some with racist undertones), and that they don’t even recognise the situation. Should we raise it with them? I fear a permanent rift, but brewing resentment doesn’t feel healthy either.

Mariella replies Talk about the nation’s debate in a microcosm! It was only a matter of time before this toxic political fracas, currently dividing us like the most bitter of divorces, came to haunt lifestyle pages as well as the headlines. So many families and friendships have been torn asunder by the passion disgorged on both sides, with the only comfort being that it’s a long while since people engaged with politics with such ferocity.

Brexit has unleashed a tsunami of frustration and fear and, as you point out, the generational divide is part of the fracture. What chance do you think you have of changing your parents’ minds? That seems to me to be the crux of this impasse. Those of us holding out for a second referendum do so with scant belief that the voting percentages would change dramatically. What seems to have occurred since that fateful June morning, when our children lost their right to roam among their closest neighbours, is greater entrenchment and growing resentment on both sides.

I’m the first to admit that remain’s argument was lacklustre, out-of-touch and ultimately patronising. Their “better together” principle may have been right, but the delivery was badly flawed. It was like a complacent spouse explaining that while they might be dreary, the alternative would be a roller-coaster ride of uncertainty. Clearly, plenty are up for that ride! Far more compelling rationale has flowed from the likes of Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine, whose broader view of history and statesmanlike declarations about co-operation and democracy might have carried the crowd.

On the opposite side are those who were sold the Brexit dream by a bunch of desperados who make secondhand car salesmen look like paragons of truth and virtue. Those torch bearers are like the serial adulterer – no matter how many times they are exposed as having deceived us, they plead their commitment and promise tomorrow will be different. The one imperative to have been swept from the table is what kickstarted the debacle in the beginning – the need for EU reform. Reform not just to ensure member states don’t end up in a bitter battle like ours, but to shape a cumbersome governing body for a fast-moving, globalising world.

I’ve not witnessed political chaos on this level since the early 80s when strike action, union fury and the Iron Lady combined to create a social revolution of seismic strength that in many ways set the scene for the strife today.

Where does your little family fracas fit in all this? Right in the epicentre, I’d say. No matter what happens we are all, Remainers and Brexiters, going to have to learn to harmoniously co-habit on our small island with understanding, patience, empathy and reduced hyperbole. At the moment, like you, we’re all waiting to see what the outcome will be; but actually, the time to start mending fences is now.

Your parents have made a choice that may or may not influence where you choose to raise your children. It doesn’t mean you have to fall out; just that their choice has had an impact on yours. So, I wouldn’t try to change their minds or convince them they’ve got it wrong. Instead, illustrate to them that many of their fears – whether of marauding migrants or lack of self-determination – are unjustified. Be honest, but without acrimony when you explain the decisions you’ve made, bearing in mind their wellbeing and with your child’s future at the forefront of your mind.

The only non-negotiable in this whole debacle is that we can’t compromise on our determination to carve a better future. In or out, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that we become again a nation we can be proud to inhabit for its values of inclusion, intelligent debate, democracy and basic human and equal rights. That’s plenty to be getting on with.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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