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Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit

Some said au revoir and good riddance, while others were more supportive in France following the historic Brexit vote.

Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Photo: AFP
France has shown a divided response to the news that the UK has voted to leave the EU, although a vocal majority (online at least) appear to have been pleased. 
 
A survey of newspaper Le Figaro's readers found on Friday morning that most respondents in France were satisfied with the result of the vote. 
 
The screengrab below shows that 68 percent of the more than 10,000 people surveyed were satisfied with the result, compared to 32 percent who weren't. 
 
 
And this majority was the most vocal on Twitter on Friday, as many French vented their anger – as well as predictable digs at “Les Anglais” – over the Brexit vote.
   
The hashtag #BonDebarras – Good Riddance – spoke for itself, but one user sniped: “Les Anglais are beginning to realise that most Europeans are delighted that they are splitting.”
  
Other snarky tweets recalled that Britain had always had an arm's-length relationship with the European Union, having opted out of the euro, the visa-free Schengen zone and the Common Agricultural Policy.
   
“Have they ever really been part of the EU?” one asked.
 
'Today it's hard not to feel ashamed to be British'
   
Said another: “They were a pain in the ass when they wanted in, now they're a pain in the ass going out: The English are the cats of Europe.”
   
In the midst of the Euro 2016 football championship, with a possible quarter-final showdown looming between England and France, many questioned whether the English side still had a right to take part.
   
“Let's kick out the England team. They don't have visas,” one user said.
   
The inevitable references to British cuisine included one tweet posting a picture of Marmite, calling it “a little something the English can keep all for themselves”.
   
“The English… vote like they cook, it's diabolical,” another said.
A photo captioned “Brexit in one picture”, below, showed a table laden with an abundance of European noshes including a French pastry, German sausage and Italian pasta, with a plate of baked beans off in a corner.
Using the age-old French term of endearment for the English — Les Rosbifs, an approximation of roast beef — another Twitternaut wrote: “To celebrate this historic British referendum day I've enjoyed the traditional feast of Les Rosbifs: curry.”
   
One tweet stood out as a reminder of why the English and the French have been entwined in a love-hate relationship for centuries.
   
“The English are really a proud and stupid people. You'd think they were French.”
 
There was also some positive reactions and showings of support. 
 
“It's a sad day,” wrote one French Tweeter. “The thought that France could do the same thing under the National Front in 2017 is distressing.”
 
Other French people, particularly those living in the UK, were less impressed. 
 
“British people don’t realise that this is an error that is going to destroy the solidarity between European countries,” Charlotte Buton, a Frenchwoman who has been living in London for the past two years.
 
“I don't see anything positive coming from Brexit, neither on a social, economic or cultural level,” another Frenchwoman, who preferred to be unnamed, said.  
 
“I am deeply convinced that British people have voted out of anger and not ignorance of the negative economic impact.”

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BREXIT

‘Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed’ – How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

A new in-depth survey on British nationals living in the EU has revealed the impact that Brexit has had upon their lives, and their attitudes to their country of origin.

'Ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed' - How Brits in the EU feel about the UK

The study, conducted by academics at Lancaster and Birmingham universities, provides a snapshot of how Brits in the EU live – their age, family, work and education – and how they feel about the UK in the six years since the Brexit vote.

Unsurprisingly, it revealed that Brexit has had a major practical impact on the lives of Brits living in the EU – who are now subject to third-country rules and require residency cards or visas and face restrictions on voting and onward movement within the EU.

But the survey’s 1,328 respondents were also asked about their emotions towards the country of their birth.

Eighty percent of respondents said it had changed their feelings towards the UK.

A British woman living in Norway said she felt: “Deep, deep shame. Embarrassed to be British, ashamed that I didn’t try hard enough, or appreciate my EU citizenship.”

“Since Brexit I am disappointed in the UK. I am worried, and no longer feel like I have the same affinity for the country. It’s a shame because I love ‘home’ but the country feels so polarised,” added a British woman in her 30s living in Denmark.

An Austrian resident with dual British-Irish nationality said: “I feel disconnected, like it’s a completely different country from how I left it.

“So much so I feel more connected with my second nationality (Irish) despite the fact I never grew up in Ireland. It’s embarrassing what’s happened in the UK and what continues to happen. It’s like watching a house on fire from afar.”

The experience of living abroad during the pandemic also affected people’s feelings towards the UK, with 43 percent of people saying the UK’s handling of the Covid crisis affected their feelings towards the county.

A British woman in her 50s living in Spain said: “It was shambolic. Too late, too little, mixed messaging, lack of seriousness. So many deaths after what should have been a head start.”

A British man living in Greece described it simply as “a shit show”.

In addition to the Brexit effect, the survey also provided interesting and detailed data on the lives and profiles of Brits who live in the EU;

  • 69 percent had degree-level education
  • 77 percent worked in a professional or managerial role
  • 53 percent are of working age
  • 59 percent have been living in their country of residence for more than five years
  • 78 percent said it was very unlikely that they would move countries in the next five years 
  • The most common reasons for moving country were retirement (40 percent), family reasons (35 percent) and work (30 percent)

Almost all respondents said that Brexit had impacted their lives, with the loss of freedom of movement being the most common effect mentioned.

One man said: “My original plan (pre-2016) was to move to France on retirement, due in 2026. Brexit caused me to move sooner, in order to retain my European citizenship rights. The pandemic helped (indirectly) in that I got locked down in France in 2020, which enabled me to earn residence under the pre-Brexit rules. I had been talking to my employer about doing something similar before the pandemic broke.”

“I moved to France in 2020 in order to protect my right to live and work in France post-Brexit. My migration is 100 percent a result of Brexit,” said one American-British dual national.

Other respondents talked about the post-Brexit admin necessary to gain residency status in their country, financial losses due to the weakening of the pound against the euro and the loss on onward freedom of movement – meaning that Brits resident in one EU country no longer have the right to move to another.

The report also highlighted that only 60 percent of respondents had changed their legal status by security residency since Brexit.

For some Brits in the EU this is not necessary if they already have citizenship of their country of residence (or another EU country such as Ireland) but the report’s author highlighted that: “It may also offer an early indicator that within this population there are some who may find themselves without legal residence status, with consequences in the future for their right to residence, and access to healthcare, welfare and work (among other services).”

READ ALSO What to do if you have missed the Brexit deadline in France 

In total 42 percent of respondents were completely disenfranchised – the 15-year rule means they can no longer vote in the UK, while the loss of EU citizenship means that they cannot vote in European or local elections in their country of residence.

The British government has recently announced the ending of the 15-year rule, giving voting rights to all UK nationals, no matter how long they live outside the UK. 

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