Brexit: What (some of) the rest of Europe is saying about it
With our political parties in meltdown, economy headed for recession, the UK on the verge of disintegration and nobody sure whether a Brexit is even actually going to happen, what must our friends in the EU be thinking of us?
Are they perhaps offended by Britain’s rejection of our common institution? Have they dismissed us as a country of immigrant-hating racists? One striking headline in Spanish newspaper El País seemed to justify these fears, referring to England as a “country of hooligans”1. The article shies away from accusing 52% of the UK population of belonging to the same category as those violently nationalistic England supporters making the news at this year’s Euros. Just. Football hooligans, it claims, are simply “a grotesque caricature of how more than half of their fellow citizens… engage with the rest of the world (in the case of this referendum, with contempt, with suspicion, with ignorance and with an absurd sense of nostalgia for imperialism…).”2
Another less than flattering representation of Brexit voters, this time likening them to Donald Trump supporters, appeared in French newspaper Le Monde. Despite this apparent insult, the paper is generally sympathetic to anti-establishment voters on both sides of the Atlantic, painting them as victims of our current system who have “suffered at the hands of globalisation”.3 The real target of the paper’s ire is George Osborne, who it accuses of “absurd budgetary fundamentalism” bringing about “an irresponsible reduction of the welfare state”.4
Of course, David Cameron received his fair share of criticism (and mockery) from the European press. In the words of El País’s Felipe González Márques, he will “go down in history as the irresponsible politician who gambled with both the UK and Europe’s interests in order to solve a personal and party problem.”5 And, with only half a tongue in cheek, Le Monde presented the chain of events leading up to Cameron becoming “caught in his own trap”6 in the form of a tragedy, from “Act I: The Lisbon Treaty ‘betrayal’” to “Act IV: ‘Brexit’ and ‘Cameronexit’”.
Meanwhile, Czech news website Aktuálně.cz was focusing in on the cultural divide between Leave and Remain voters, seeing the referendum as a clash between “young and old, the working class and the intelligentsia, those with less education and the elites.”7 It was, according to one article, a failure on the part of the establishment and the highly educated to fully explain the benefits of EU membership which lost the In campaign the vote. Following reports that the second highest ranking Google search query about the EU in the aftermath of the referendum was ‘What is the EU?’, the article’s author was left incredulous: “Do you understand what that means? They voted and they didn’t even know what they were voting for.”8 If Czech politicians in favour of the EU want to avoid a Czexit, he continues, they must go out among the people and explain exactly what the EU does for them.
And this sense that what happened on June 23rd should serve as a lesson to the rest of Europe is a recurring theme. Because, articles accusing half of Brits of being hooligans aside, no one seems to be seriously claiming that increased anti-European sentiment is a purely British phenomenon. Aktuálně.cz sees the same dividing lines within Czech society as those that boosted support for the Leave vote. For El País, nationalism is a “contagion”9 which is spreading across Europe. And Le Monde admits that the EU as it currently stands produces “more Euroscepticism than Euro-enthusiasm”.10 The result of the referendum was a “profound rejection”11 of the status quo in Europe, and changes will have to be made if the disintegration of the EU is to be avoided.
So perhaps, out of all the chaos and uncertainty, Europe will be able to take something useful. Let’s just hope we still have enough of a relationship with the EU to benefit from it.
Shooting Star Language Services provides translations from French and Spanish to English. (Czech is a work in progress!) Click here for more information.
1 Inglaterra, país 'hooligan'
2 Los 'hooligans' ofrecen una caricatura grotesca de cómo más de la mitad de sus compatriotas... se relacionan con el resto del mundo (en el caso concreto del referéndum, con desdén, con desconfianza, con ignorancia y con una absurda nostalgia imperial...).
3 ...l’Angleterre pauvre, malmenée par la mondialisation.
4 ...George Osborne, qui, au nom d’un fondamentalisme budgétaire absurde, a procédé à une diminution irresponsable de l’Etat-providence.
5 David Cameron pasará a la historia como el político irresponsable que puso en juego el interés general de Gran Bretaña y de Europa para resolver un problema personal y de partido.
6 Cameron s'est laissé prendre à son propre piège
7 ...jdou proti sobě mladí a staří, dělníci a inteligence, méně vzdělaní proti elitám.
8 Chápete? Volili a nevěděli o čem.
9 ...un catagio...
10 ...génère bien plus d’euroscepticisme que d’euro-enthousiasme.
11 ...un désaveu majeur...