Eek! CRAIG BROWN attends a ‘Brexaholics Anonymous’ meeting

Eek! CRAIG BROWN attends a ‘Brexaholics Anonymous’ meeting

Eek! That’s a nasty case of Brexaddiction: CRAIG BROWN attends a ‘Brexaholics Anonymous’ meeting

At the back of a village hall somewhere in Gloucestershire, 22 people are sitting in a circle.

‘My name is Joanna,’ begins a 40-year-old woman. ‘And I am a Brexaholic.’

The chair of the meeting nods sympathetically before inviting her to tell her story.

She takes a deep breath. ‘Well, I suppose it all started shortly after the referendum, really. Of course, I thought I could handle it at first. I’d just turn the volume up on the radio whenever I heard the B word mentioned, that sort of thing. I didn’t realise it would lead on to something more serious.

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‘I’d never had any trouble with Any Questions before. The moment it came on, I used to switch off the radio, like everyone else. But after a few weeks, I found myself irresistibly drawn to it.

‘There were always these trigger words. Whenever anyone said ‘Seventeen Point Four’ or ‘will of the people’ or ‘a disaster for our economy’, I’d get a little rush, and reach for the button. I’d turn up the volume.

‘Then I wouldn’t be able to do anything else — I’d just stand there, fixated.’

In the village hall, the attendees all nod vigorously. They know what she is talking about: they’ve all been there. It’s an affliction that affects Leavers and Remainers alike. One minute, they think they can handle it. The next, they can think of nothing else, and are accosting people in the street with their thoughts and solutions. At the moment, there’s no known cure.

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A timid-looking man rises to his feet. ‘In the early stages, I’d perhaps listen to the main players — Farage, Boris, Theresa May. It was for just two or three minutes every day. I thought I could handle it.

‘But then, after a few weeks, I’d find myself listening to people I’d barely heard of before — Anna Soubry, Nick Boles, Matt Hancock. And then yester… yesterda… yesterday…’ He tries to collect himself, but struggles to get the words out. ‘…I became obsessed with Mark Francois!’

Around the circle, people gasp. They know when they encounter a serious case of Brexaddiction.

This is Brexaholics Anonymous, set up for the treatment of those who can’t stop thinking and talking about Brexit, often to the exclusion of anything else. Other Brexaholics recall how they, too, developed weird fixations with equally marginal figures.

‘I thought I could manage it. I’d watch him for five, ten minutes every day. But that soon rose to 30 minutes or an hour. And now it’s most of my waking hours,’ says Rebecca, a young woman from Romford, who can’t shake off an addiction to Jacob Rees-Mogg.

‘There’s nothing I can do to stop myself, even when he’s just pictured walking down the street, or giving that pitying look to interviewers.

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‘On one level, I disapprove of him, but on another, I can’t get enough of him. And now I’m worried that I’m becoming hooked on his sister Annunziata, too.’

Needless to say, families of Brexaholics suffer, too. Some of them have organised their own self-help groups, meeting to exchange tales from the front line.

There’s Lillian, whose husband Geoff couldn’t stop talking about Brexit, even when the conversation was about something entirely different. ‘We’d go to a dinner party. Someone would ask Geoff if he watched Game Of Thrones. He’d say, no, but he thought Boris had a bloody nerve to claim that a majority of Britons supported No Deal.

‘So someone else, wanting to change the subject, would ask if anyone knew the best way of getting from Oswestry to Chippenham. And Geoff would reply that, whichever way you went, it couldn’t take longer than the time it was taking this wretched Government to implement the will of the British people.’

Before long, the party invitations began to dry up, explains Lillian.

‘In the back of people’s minds, I think they feared that Geoff’s condition was contagious. And perhaps it was. At one of the very last parties we were invited to, Geoff started barracking a man called Chris about sovereignty.

‘Chris got caught up in it, and now I hear from his wife that Chris has checked into the Brexoholic clinic. Apparently, he can’t stop ranting about the crying need for a second referendum.

‘Only yesterday, someone asked him what the time was, and he went into long, rambling defence of the Customs Union.’

To be continued…

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