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Sun 22 September 2019
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Arnold le Goeuil observes that though Brexit has dominated public debate and British media for three years, outside the UK people have little interest, proving Britain’s declining presence on the international stage.

Being a Frenchman in Great Britain is far from easy. Not just because we haven’t still forgiven you for what you did to Jeanne d’Arc and Napoleon – though your help and your kind hospitality for de Gaulle and the France libre during the Second World War were noticed.

It’s tough not just because London is also France’s third biggest city and that you have attracted all our wealthy nationals – in strong competition with Belgium and Switzerland – resulting in fewer revenues for our magnificent interventionist state. And not just because we always suspected you to be America’s outpost in Europe –  mission accomplished we could say.

The dynamic, optimistic and forward-looking approach to almost everything, are all precious assets that made the country ‘Great’ for decades.

Being a Frenchman in Great Britain is tough because I thought only the French can be that self-centred, nostalgic for a greater past and so divided. To many aspects over the past three years, the UK has outperformed France in the role of the eternal grumpy.

A Waste of Time

Yet we know that – aside from your ‘food’, your jokes on our accent while only a few Britons can fluently speak a second language, and your horrible weather – Great Britain is a welcoming, fascinating, complex and diverse family of nations.

The country’s society model, the values and the dynamic, optimistic and forward-looking approach to almost everything, are all precious assets that made the country ‘Great’ for decades. You might not feel it but it’s still the way many people around the world see Britain – for now.

In fact, if you were a bit closer to the continent and less to America’s foreign policy and if you spent more time building a stronger Europe rather than trying to get every time a bigger piece of the cake; I am sure the Isles could have been the cornerstone of the European Union just like France or Germany are.

I thought only the French can be that self-centred, nostalgic for a greater past and so divided.

Instead, you preferred to leave and it was supposed to be short and simpke.

To be honest, in 2016, I can’t remember what was the most shocking – Brexit happening or the promise to shortly leave the EU afterwards. If one knows a bit about Britain’s history, he or she would know that the British aren’t quick when it comes to moving out of somewhere. It took a century to get you out of Aquitaine and then Calais, a decade to ‘quit India’ and you haven’t still really left Ireland. You’re now desperately trying to get a way out for three odd years – and I do mean odd. 

In a growing dangerous world, with bad-intentioned powers on the rise, you have decided to leave an unperfect but still existing union, thinking that, alone, you might be able to get your own way, ‘just like in the old days’. Some already find a way to complain on Europe’s nasty negotiators who weren’t keen to offer any concession.

Well… if you think Europe is tough, get ready for the US or China.

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Not ‘Great’ Britain Anymore

People outside the UK do not understand this mess with Brexit – and to be honest neither people inside.

Let’s get real: Britain is not anymore a predominant power. For nearly two decades now, Britain has lost its prestige, seen worldwide as the US backyard in Europe, now about to offer its NHS on a silver plate.

With the European Union, the country could have had the chance to maintain a unified block, offering its military force in cooperation with France as a safekeeper against a threatening Russia. And for the Commonwealth, replacing the EU in Brexiteer’s minds, I wonder if India’s surging international presence will let you have the leadership of the Commonwealth – Queen or not.

With a struggling economy, sky-high inequalities, decreasing international influence and a divided society, Brexit highlights the huge difficulties ahead.

It took a century to get you out of Aquitaine and then Calais, a decade to ‘quit India’ and you haven’t still really left Ireland.

To this regard, the Tory leadership contest is quite amusing given the gap between both candidates’ dreams and promises and the reality. Just as if ‘nothing has changed’, the contrast between their Oxbridge-boys vision of the former Empire and the reality of a much poorer and isolated country in a few years is laughable if not sad. Even more laughable, the outrage around Johnson’s partner while the real outrage should lie on who funded his 2016 campaign.

The UK used to be great but it is not the case anymore. While our world faces climate change, threatening powers, irresolvable inequalities and a depressing future, Brexit looks like a storm in a teacup.

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