After the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gamboled and feasted with the socialist leader of The French Republic this past weekend, it might be a good time to reflect on the state of Brexit, La France and their stinking poor relation we all know as politics. While William and Kate present themselves as super dental specimens of banal certainty, family values and fabulous wardrobes, a principal candidate for the presidency, Francois Fillon, finds himself mired with media excrement for enriching his family at public expense and owning a fabulous wardrobe, not to mention a castle. I somewhat suspect that M. Fillon would rather be a king than a president.
So, what do the French think about Brexit?
The first thing to understand is that the British thought they were fully integrated into the European Union. The French never bought this overcooked baguette. They have watched their president Hollande marching in step with the German chancellor with an air of dismay, as unemployment and poverty in France groaned on as a dull belly-ache occasioned by swallowing the overvalued Euro. Les Rosbifs have never even dreamed of adding any such foreign sauce to their home cooking.
The French are part of the borderless Schengen zone. They see the British as semi-Europeans, still sulking about William the Conqueror in an aircraft hangar filled with Spitfires. The footage of protestant vicar’s daughter and now British Prime Ministresse Theresa May hand in hand with the bouffant avenger Donald cemented their view of the Brits for a generation. Les Rosbifs are not Europeans. The Royal Rosbifs are international and pump the medium rare blood of European history. And the Queen loves horses and dogs! This weekend the British are carrying out a House of Windsor Brexit diplomatic missile test. So far everything is on target.
In the Photo: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0
Very often over dinner with French friends, a guest will ask me some important questions:
- What type of dogs does the Queen have?
- Do English people have dogs like this themselves?
- Does the Queen eat swans?
- Do Brits love the Queen and what did they think of Princess Diana?
- Do I think Marine Le Pen is attractive to men/women? (i.e. Would you be shocked to know I might vote for her but I’m not admitting it?)
- Do I worry about being thrown out of France after Brexit?
- What is a Protestant? Can you marry one and why do they all live in Northern Ireland?
This is the normal order of priorities. The sad but true fact is that someone French at the table can usually answer the first four questions before me. The low position of the Brexit question merely reflects the belief that we never really joined and we’ve already left.
As conversation evolves it soon becomes clear that many French are deeply envious of our independence. Never has the Gallic shrug seemed so glum.
The most common sentiment about the EU, is that: you have no choice and it is useless to struggle. It’s not that they want to leave. It’s that they want a Union to love.
The lined face has no less beauty. Yet, the kisses have grown cold and the lips hard. The smile has left the eyes and no hand reaches out. If this sounds poetic it is because this is the privately spoken language of a proud and remarkable nation. It is part of a society unknown to and ignored by the leaders of Europe.
Brexit has made the French look up from their bread and the Rosbif Royals are here to give them a circus. As I write this feature, world TV cameras lick the dimpled cheeks of the Duchess of Cambridge, as she watches France play Wales in the six nations rugby tournament in Paris. Fearless Welsh cart horses trample the patriot paysans. A beautiful, rich princess looks on. Roll up, roll up laydeez and gentlemen—it sure ain’t the gray suited Jean-Claude Juncker show.
The big question is whether there is such a thing as a Brexit effect, and if so, will it affect the upcoming French presidential elections?
Related article: “BREXIT DOMINO EFFECT: RISKS AND CONSEQUENCES”
This is definitely a fence for political pollsters and journalists. Since I’m a novelist, living in France, and far too well lived for fence sitting I can give you the answer. Yes! It will affect the mindset but probably not the result.
One could be mistaken for believing that the European leadership is a clique of personally ambitious faceless sophisticates, dedicated to managing the intellectually challenged demos in the name of amoral international capitalism.
The fact is that someone had already thrown a grenade into the argument if not the Parliament. And the people who threw it were not Nigel Farage or the Donald. It was Margaret Thatcher. She told you something very important. Politics is sexy. You can change, you can win and you can feel the buzz. You have choices but the consequences may be hatred, struggle and suffering. Oh, the orgasmic romantic joy of hatred, suffering and struggle. Bring me wine at the barricades, kiss my dying lips, Ludwig—play me an anthem! Brexit has unleashed the juicy beast of politics—passion. At last comrades, someone somewhere has some sort of plan!
In the Photo:Margaret Thatcher Photo Credit: Sophia Piellusch, U.S Department of Defense, Wikimedia Commons
The fact is that dull analysis and sedulous management is—well, dull. The belief that politics and life itself is fundamentally about rationality and good sense, is like pretending that sex is about having babies. The lure of the irrational is as fatal to the gray managers of populations, as the tinsel foil on the hook of a mackerel fisherman. An idea need not have substance. The easiest ideas to swallow are the lightest.
Marine Le Pen understands this. She is a sexy milkmaid in the Brexit dairy and she will milk it for all she’s worth. She is a hand maiden of the Donald Triumph and will make of it her arch. Love her or hate her she cannot be ignored. She understands the French heart and has little interest in their brains.
Unlike the sterile eunuch énarques, much of her campaign time has been spent in the rural areas of France, rejoicing in the cloying dung of identity. If I had to guess, today she will get into the second round of the presidential election. She will represent by far the biggest solid lump of French sentiment. And she will lose because all the others from communists to neo-liberal bean counters will vote against her. The question, mes amis, is what happens to that aromatic dung of passion when the gray suits once again slam the lid on the dustbin of dreams?
Of course, we once had the answer. Those limping bloody-nosed martyrs crawling away in the shadows are none other than Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Dragging their cross in France is the figure of Francois Hollande, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Manuel Valls and Benoit Hamon. The rich halitosis of capitalism at last has repelled and revolted the hammer and fickle lips of Socialism.
Do not cry—it was never a love match. It was a marriage of intercontinental inconvenience. The truth is that the death of the Left has long since been overdue. It had become no more than a scarecrow overgrown in a privately-owned field of money. In France, it is the Right who raise the fist against the bankers and the monochrome certainties of bureaucratic suppression. You have no choice. Consume and rejoice while the cleveroids deal with the problems. Let them eat Renault! Let Renault make Dacia—in Romania.
I’m a novelist. I deal in untruth and passion beyond the humdrum of world shifting politics. As I see it now from my home in rural France, Brexit is the name of a concept in the way that we give names to storms and hurricanes. La Tempête Brexit is on the horizon – what roofs will it lift, what trees will it uproot? In all probability, the hurricane of national identity will soften into a warm front and some heavy rain. Yet the clouds will remain as heavy and as imposing as southern eyebrows on a dark-skinned face. What we are likely to see in France, is the last limp cry of neutrality as the morally impotent rich class raise their manicured hands to caress the cheeks of greed, environmental destruction and the fatal kiss of political indifference.
In the Photo (Left): Marine Le Pen Photo Credit:, Wikimedia Commons
The soup is thin but the folk still believe in the cauldron and the expertise of the chefs. Marine has her apron ready and a pepper pot in her pocket all set for a bit of home cooking. For now, they burn money to keep it warm. It will run out and the African drought and war will drive another enduring immigration crisis. It will be then that the closed frontiers and turned back of Britain will exert its true political pull on France.
Brexit is not the end of the European dream. If it is evaluated properly, it is a call to arms and an opportunity for those truly dedicated to the notion of universal ideals.
I do not know anyone who believes that the European Union can survive in its current form. We are unlikely to redefine the post-Brexit world without at least a serious skirmish at the barricades in France.
In the meantime, gaze at the beauty and jewels of the princess. Sigh at the handsome uniform of the prince. Britain is a foreign land of fairy tales and frogs needing only a kiss to become a prince. Frogs—the Rosbifs send their finest actors to embrace you.
Recommended reading: “IMPAKTER ESSAY: THE UGLY SIDE OF BREXIT”