Why would the French be jealous, resentful and fearful of the British?

A France-bashing article in the pro-Brexit Daily Mail newspaper has sparked ridicule, not least for the fact it stated "the French peer across the Channel at the British with jealousy, resentment and fear". It's more like pity at the moment, writes Ben McPartland.

Why would the French be jealous, resentful and fearful of the British?
Photo: AFP

The French president Emmanuel Macron was always going to end up an arch-enemy of the pro-Brexit British press.

His desire for deeper European integration doesn't quite fit with the desire by Britain's Brexit cheerleaders such as the Daily Express and the Daily Mail to see the UK wash its hands of the EU as soon as possible.

So the Daily Mail's latest attack on the French President, by columnist Dominc Sandbrook shouldn't come as a surprise.

Sandbrook was particularly unhappy about Macron's alleged plan to block Britain's departure from the EU so that the country would simply have to reverse its decision through a second referendum. 

Macron was a “foreign bully” and a “Parisian pygmy” and “a classic over-privileged Gallic politician”, who would meet his downfall at the hands of the British just like his hero Napolean did at Waterloo and Trafalgar, the writer said.

Yes, absolute xenophobic 'drivel' as many people pointed out.

The writer also seemed bizarrely taken a back and angered that France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau for suggesting that a no-deal would be better for France than a deal that would penalise French businesses – making reference to Theresa May's so-called Chequers plan that the EU has rejected.

Has he forgotten that there are two sides involved in the Brexit talks? Just like the British Prime Minister Theresa May, who coined the phrase “no deal is better than a bad deal”, the French are simply looking out for their interests.  

That's what happens in negotiations.

This is not the French hoping the worst for Britain or trying to punish the British people, it's just the French making sure they limit the negative effects of Brexit.

There is the view in Britain that the French are trying to profit from Brexit at the UK's expense. But the French are entitled to protect their interests and also compete with other EU nations like Germany or Ireland for the potential benefits of any fallout, hence their attempts to make Paris a more attractive place for bankers than Frankfurt or Dublin.

 “We don't have a predatory vision when it comes to Brexit,” France's Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told The Local recently. “It's not about taking jobs from the UK, it's about (making France) more attractive – all in the framework of fair competition.”

French are 'fearful, resentful and jealous of British'

But what was perhaps the most bizarre line of the paranoid jingoistic rant was the statement Macron was “pandering to the jealousy, resentment and fear with which so many French men and women peer anxiously across the Channel.”

Of all the French men and French women I have met, I can honestly say I have never met one who was either jealous, resentful or scared of British people.

And that was before Britain got bogged down in the shambles that has been Brexit.

Brits in France will no doubt have been asked many times by their compatriots back in the UK 'what the French make of Brexit?'

It's always a difficult question to answer, not because opinions are divided, but because the French just don't often talk about it.

The fact is, most of the time Britain's ungainly exit from the EU is just not top of their list of priorities and that goes for the press and the politicians too. The French people who do bring up the subject of Brexit are for the most part bemused, confused and relieved they are not the country ripping itself apart.

That view was shared by many on Twitter, with one person summing the French view up perfectly.

“They just don't get it. It's just one of those odd English things, like cricket, jelly or Morris dancing,” said Kevin Harigan.

As Brexit reaches its denouement over the coming weeks and months before Britain and the EU go their separate ways on March 29th, French interest will no doubt increase, but Dominic Sandbrook, the Daily Mail and people in Britain should know that it won't be provoking any fear, resentment or jealousy on this side of the Channel.

Pity, perhaps.


Member comments

  1. So the little island in the North Sea growls. You lost the Empire to the US. Now you are losing EU. Good luck trying to establish trade deals with EU, US and your friends in India.

  2. Which empire have we lost to the US ? I wasn’t aware that they had one. Where does this jerk get his info. from ? Seems that he or she has an axe to grind.

  3. This entire act of madness is nothing short of criminal. I’ve written before, many times, I consider the UK government – and parliament – to be acting criminally. They are ignoring their primary responsibility; protection of the nation and it’s people. The British people do, indeed, need to “take back control” – of their parliament.

  4. Seriously that writer believes French are jealous and fearful? haha I believe the opposite to be true When you have little cockroaches like Nigel Farrell supporting the vote for Brexit and then ditching everyone at the last minute.
    I am personally not against Brexit. On the contrary, I believe people have the right to choose their own path. But keep in mind, French (and Europeans) are in favor of a post-brexit deal. My point being: People want to leave the EU? (With or without a deal) –> Your choice! But do not for a second think the French are “jealous”. If it were true? ==> The French would be the first to encourage a no deal brexit 😉 Remember that! (A no deal brexit would make many companies want to invest elsewhere). So I don’t for a second believe the French are jealous my dear writer! 🙂

  5. Really people in France dont care as much as people in uk do. Is just like what a stupid choice they make and just another day. UK is not the centre of the world anymore wake up people.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.