‘You value sovereignty more than solidarity’: What the French think of us after Brexit
‘The decision was short-sighted and closed-minded’
Just over three weeks ago, the Brexit camp pronounced their victory over the EU referendum. Unanticipated as it was, it seems the result is indeed going ahead, but what do our French neighbours think of it all?
President Francois Hollande called it a sad result which would put Europe to the test, gravely, whilst Marine Le Pen, head of UKIP equivalent “Le Front National” in France, rejoiced at the news, claiming it a “Victoire de la liberté.”
I asked them what they thought of the UK’s departure, whether they felt that a Frexit was in any way likely and most of all – do they resent us?
Vincent, 28 years old – Lawyer and left wing radical
“I think we did expect this of you to an extent. Not that you are selfish, but it seems that the English value their sovereignty more than a sense of solidarity, and that is dangerous because you are alienating yourself from others. You say the EU is technocratic, bureaucratic and undemocratic, and that’s the reason you are leaving.
“This is true, but nothing will change in your country because the UK system is just as flawed and capitalist as the EU itself. You got special treatment when you were in anyway, so I don’t think it makes that much of a difference that you have left.”
Alexis Balcerzak, 21 year old Art student
“Yes there might be a hint of resentment towards English people there. I was talking to my flatmate about this recently and we think it is crazy that you have left. David Cameron, your prime minister, has just resigned after losing the referendum because he knows he is in the shit and can’t fix this himself. I don’t know how anyone can fix it to be honest.
“As for Frexit, that definitely won’t happen. Marine Le Pen of the ‘Front Nationale’ is the one advocating it and she, and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, are evil politicians who are manipulative and racist. She is a powerful orator but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she is just like Donald Trump, but in France. It was an idiotic decision on the part of the UK, and would be equally as stupid in France, but I suppose we must respect democracy.”
Charlene Metolli, 20 years old, University of Montpellier
“Well, I feel that there is a strong sense of ‘national possession’ in the UK. The Brexiteers seem to only want white, English people in their country. I’m not a politician, but from a French perspective, the decision to leave the EU was short-sighted and closed-minded.
“I’ve heard so many poor excuses that immigrants are to blame but what I don’t understand is that we are all part of one world. Why are we setting so many boundaries? I’m the daughter of immigrants, half French, half Albanian. My mum, who is French, lives in England and no one would ever dream of telling her to leave, maybe its because she’s white, maybe it’s all just a deep-rooted racist issue, who knows. As for me, I believe we are simply better together and any sort of union between countries is a good thing, to stay friends.
Hicham Kaddaha, 21 years old, Student in corporate law
” On the morning of the 24th June, when I discovered the results, I couldn’t actually believe it. I couldn’t actually believe that the British people had decided to leave this supranational construction, which was originally created to prevent the continent from ripping itself apart.
“I grew up speaking English and have great respect for the British people, so I wouldn’t say I resent you for it. What I would say is that you didn’t think this through. Those who say the EU is undemocratic are not wrong, the system certainly has its flaws, but the question is more whether these flaws outweigh the advantages of the system? In my opinion, the answer is no. As for Frexit, it would be simply mad. French corporations make most of their money out of the single market, so leaving the EU would be devastating, economically!
Diane, 14 years old
“My parents say it’s good for them because I’m an international student in England, and since the pound has dropped, it means the school fees will be less. So I guess that’s a good thing, thanks Britain!
“But from a more general perspective, I think Britain’s departure will create conflict between EU countries. Most of all, it was old people who made this decision, they didn’t ask young people. I think they should lower the voting age to 16 so that young people can have a say in their future.”
Nico Tendron, Musician
“I don’t think it is the worst thing ever that you have left. So no, I don’t resent or judge you in the slightest. It is certainly a good idea to counter the EU system so that it doesn’t dominate too much and eat us up. But, of course, it is a risk because such an opposition may make internal relations between EU countries problematic. As for France, I genuinely think we give too much importance to our membership of the EU, so maybe Frexit wouldn’t be the end of the world, as long as it is lead properly.”
Ophélie, 21 years old, Law student
“I don’t resent the UK as such, but it’s such a shame that you have left us. As a law student, I was excited to have the opportunity to travel to England and do an Erasmus year abroad, but I most likely wont have that chance anymore because Erasmus is funded by the EU. I am very sad this has happened. As for Frexit, it would be idiotic for France to leave the EU because we were one of the founding members!”
Zachary, 19 years old, Law student
“This is typical of the UK, you were already out of Schengen and have your own special currency – you were semi-independent anyway! Therefore, by opting to leave the EU, you are just avoiding all responsibility, and abandoning the cause, rather than staying in and trying to reform it like the rest of us.
“I don’t think the EU is a very logical set-up, because every country within it is so different, and yet we are forced to have this political union. However, it is still better to remain inside, and not abandon the cause. I read that it was the small villages in England that voted for Brexit, and secured it’s victory? This is exactly the same in France. I live in the village where Jean-Marie le Pen grew up, Trinité-sur-mer, so the place is crawling with extreme right-wingers. Jean-Marie still has a house here today, he goes to the same supermarket as us, and the same creperie! So my small village would probably be in favour of Frexit, unfortunately!”
Clément Charneau, 20 years old, studying English, Spanish and Chinese
“I am an extreme-right supporter of the ‘Front Nationale’ and I don’t resent the English at all! I think it was a great move to leave the European union and I would like the same for France. Many people think that we on the extreme right are racists and xenophobes, but we are not. Of course there are some, but we just believe in a selective immigration system, as opposed to the open-door policy we have at the moment. This is similar to UKIP no?
“I believe that the EU originally wanted to form a sort of ‘United States’, with each country acting as a sovereign state, but instead of being like the USA, it turned out more like the USSR. Every country is treated equally in the eyes of European law and that isn’t fair because some countries are more developed than others.
“For example, Estonia, what do they do? As it’s such a tiny country, they don’t give France or the UK much industry or trade, so why are we politically and economically affiliated with them? I think it is bizarre. That’s why it was a sensible decision, on behalf of the British people, to opt out – hopefully Frexit will be next!”