As it others were I was stunned by the referendum result. My mother, attending church in the cathedral the Sunday afterwards, was met with points and exclamations of English afterward. These, thankfully, weren’t expressions of condemnation (despite France many in France being pro the result – #BonDebarras), but rather of shock. Her response “Oui, Je sais. C’est catastrophique!”
As I’m going to be taking my little one to play groups and other things for extended periods of time, and as an outsider, I’m becoming (perhaps irrationally) concerned with what to say if asked about it – as well as how to say it! So I’ve put together an a-z of Brexit things as well as some French vocabulary. Hope this helps you too!
Is for ashamed (avoir honte). Following the vote (vote) my Facebook timeline was filled with posts from people who were ‘ashamed to be British’. This was, apparently, because of the image of those who had voted for Brexit being what is described below.
Is for bigot (fanatique). As many who voted for Brexit stated immigration (l’immigration) as a major concern they have been termed as ‘Little Englanders’ (les petits anglaise) because of their suspected wish of wanting the UK (le Royaume-Uni) to be ‘for the British’.
Is for control (être maître) ; as in control of borders (la frontière), of the ability to make laws (les lois), and those responsible for the governing of the people to be accountable to the people. A phrase frequently repeated by those campaigning for Brexit, and best highlighted by Tony Benn’s quote;
“When I saw how the European Union was developing, it was very obvious what they had in mind was not democratic (democratique) In Britain, you vote for a government (le gouvernement) so the government has to listen to you, and if you don’t like it you can change it.”
C is also for contagion (la contagion). The fear that post Brexit other countries unhappy with how the EU is being run may themselves put a referendum to their people.
Is for degree (avoir une diplôme universitaire). The often stated difference between those voting to Bremain with those voting for Brexit was that the former had them and the latter didn’t. The inference being, of course, that Brexiters didn’t have the capacity (la capacité) to make such a monumental decision as they weren’t as intelligent (intelligent/e), or even stupid (stupide). See L.
Is also for diverse (divers/e). London, the most diverse in the number of cities which voted to remain, was contrasted to the areas voting for Brexit. The argument that those who had voted for Brexit didn’t live in such areas was evidence that, as they hadn’t experienced diversity, therefore were more susceptible to the lies of the Brexit campaign (presumably because of their lack of intelligence).
Is for the elite (l’élite). The referendum has been seen by many as a way to lash out at ‘the elite’ who are not touched by the impact mass immigration has had on others. In response to the point above it is argued that the elites – whilst enjoying cheap labour, a wide variety of cuisine and restaurants etc – don’t have to compete for resources as others do and actually live in leafy, wealthy areas. This was epitomised by the behaviour of Bob Geldof directed towards Nigel Farage. Hits focus on Farage, I would suggest, meant that he wasn’t sufficiently conscious the impact it was having on the fishermen (pêcheurs) with him campaigning (faisant campagne) against the EU.
Is for fear (peur) as in project. Prior to the referendum many business leaders and financiers (including the head of the Bank of England) stated that following an ‘out’ vote there would be a financial crises (crises financières). World leaders such as Obama, Hollande and experts like the IMFs Christine Lagarde all reported financial devastation, lack of trade deals and the moving of border checks to this side of the channel.
On the Brexit side fear was in the form of masses of refugees (les réfugiés) (depicted on the now notorious Nigel Farage poster). It was this side of the campaign that was associated with the murder (le meurtre) of the MP Jo Cox.
As in mind the gap (un créneau). In this depressingly sad piece in The Guardian this writer eloquently describes it. His realisation as to the possible reason for the sudden growth in the hand washed car business (why invest in expensive machinery, when labour itself is so cheap) made me ashamed. Ashamed that the gap between the rich and the poor in my country had grown so much with us only paying passing attention to it. A commentor below the line in this piece, despairing of the affect Brexit would have on her children, was angry and bewildered. She’d voted all her life to pay higher taxes, she said, to help such people. Yet she was still angry at them for voting out.
I was struck by how our sudden unease and fear that Brexit had unleashed was nothing in comparison to generations of people let down by successive Labour and Conservative governments. This feeling has probably been their predominant feeling throughout life.
Is for Home Secretary, or Theresa May, reportedly a shoe in for the Conservative leadership and therefore Prime minister. May, who has overseen immigration ironically, has expressed euro sceptic sentiments previously. Nevertheless she, grudgingly, backed Bremain. She has committed to invoking article 50 (l’article 50) and has caused doubt as to whether foreign nationals would be repatriated following the Article 50s completion and British exit from the EU (le rapatriement). This is despite repeated statements by Brexit campaigners that no such thing would happen following the referendum. Whether she is doing so to look tough, to appeal to those she sees as xenophobic rather than just doubtful about mass migration or as a bargaining chip in the negotiations remains to be seen. What is certain is that such statements causes anxiety not only for those foreign nationals (les ressortissant étranger) living in the UK, but UK nationals living in other member states.
Is for integration (l’intégration) too. For some the response of France was seen as an inevitable result of England’s self designated thorn in the side role of the European rose. In England it had always been for some a project economic, not social and our constant ‘No’ to treaties where a roadblock to the desired integration wanted by the other countries.
Is for Johnson, Boris. The blonde haired buffoon or bro, depending on your perspective. Seen at first as the hero of the Brexit campaign (or power thirsty, backstabbing, opportunist) he delivered a Hollywood worthy ‘Independence Day’ speech just before referendum day (le discours). After the shock result he was pictured looking, it can be interpreted, in shock (un choc). It must be said that this opinion can be further substantiated by his sudden disappearance (la disparition) following what should have been his victorious (victorieux/euse) hour. His subsequent column, apparently edging away from some of the wilder referendum claims, resulted his own ‘et tu Bruté’ moment, when his own back was apparently stabbed by Gove.
J is also for Junker, whose response following the referendum and to his first meeting with Nigel Farage post it, would suggest he is not entirely unhappy (malheureux/euse) with the situation. In fact, post result he was calling once again for closer union (plus proche union) and the U.K. to invoke article 50 as soon as possible. However Angela Merkel, amongst other leaders, appears to be dissatisfied with his political skills (compétence de politique). In fact there have been calls that he, as well as Tusk, should stand down for the handling of the pre-referendum negotiations (les négociations).
Is for the kingdom and whether we’ll stay united. Following the result Scotland (l’Écosse) and even London (Londres) questioned their sense of belonging to the rest of the nation and discussions were had as to whether we would remain together as a United Kingdom. At present Nicola Sturgeon’s hope of remaining in the EU have been quashed, but her hopes of a second Scottish referendum are burning brightly once again.
Is for lies (le mensonge) – an accusation thrown at the Brexit team. It’s said with their misrepresentation of the amount of money given to the EU, their claim this would be spent on the NHS, the reduction of immigration etc that the Brexit team misled voters who were therefore unable to make such a complex decision.
In retaliation Brexit claimed that remain were fearmongering with their predictions of economic doom, affects on pensions (seen to be attacking those most likely to vote out) and even, ultimately world war 3 (or a version thereof).
Is for markets (les marchés). Prior to the vote Mark Carney had warned that Brexit could spark a second recession. On the morning of 24th June he announced to a jittery market that the Bank of England had prepared, developing the monetary resources required to balance the market. At the close of the working day on the Friday the markets, that had taken a severe hit in the morning, returned to a higher level, but have fluctuated since. Carney has since intervened several times to much praise.
In the days following the vote George Osborne was nowhere to be seen (Boris Johnson was also M.I.A to a large extent). Since the result he has started to woo other markets, saying the UK is still a stable place to invest money. New Zealand has offered to lone us trade negotiators, (Les négociateurs commerciaux) as we don’t have the people skilled to do so having our trade agreements (L’accord de libre-échange) negotiated through the EU. China has since said that ongoing trade negotiations are taking too long and Brexit has resulted in a possibility of developing a closer relationship with the U.K. instead.
Our trade relationship with the USA is in doubt (le doute). The trade agreement with the EU is faltering due to Brexit, however Obama’s advisor Scultz has said that we will be at the back of the queue – but some see his later statements calling for calm as confirmation that this isn’t the case. Nevertheless the forthcoming presidential election means that there will be a new head of the ship, and already Paul Ryan and other US senators have called to support the special relationship through trade deals.
In short, we won’t know the outcome for some time yet on our economy.
N is for nationalism (le nationalisme), which appears to be on the rise prior to and following the referendum. In countries such as Austria the far right is gaining ground and a narrowly fought election is being re-run in October.
Is for Osborne who completed off project fear with e forecast of dire proportions relating to the possibility of Brexit. He predicted severe budget cuts following our departure from the EU. Following Brexit he’s offered tax reductions to countries to attract the to/remain in the UK, to further chagrin of the EU itself.
Is for parliament (le parlement) and its role out referendum. Having been touted as a definitive referendum on the European question, it’s now being argued that it is only an advisory position, and that parliament itself is sovereign. Amongst the demonstrations and petitions to call for another referendum or its lack of authority due to lies told, no plan in place etc, a group of anonymous business has got together to put forward a court case to challenge the referendum’s inevitability.
P is also for the European Parliament, which its subservience to the commission. It is said that the heads of various national government’s, including Angela Merkel, insistence of leading the Brexit negotiations as opposed to the commission was based on their having being elected. This democratic deficit, long talked of in the European Union, may finally be being challenged post Brexit.
Is for the Queen (la reine) who was reported to have made known her dissatisfaction with the EU at a dinner party with Gove and Nick Clegg, but who later challenged the report. However, just prior to the referendum date did not refute the report she was asking at dinner parties for guests to tell her three things we gained from membership of it. Like her subtle statement prior to the Scottish referendum, this was seen as an anti EU statement, as her majesty is known to be more in favour of the Commonwelath which comes second best to the EU. As a closer federalised state, with all members becoming citizens of the EU, would call into question the monarchy’s (la monarchies) standing, this isn’t too much of a stretch.
Is for refugees, landing on wealthy European shores each day. As noted under T, the crises and its handling has ramifications on Brexit and throughout Europe. However, there is no doubt that pictures of a three year old drowned child have affected many in Europe. Angela Merkel’s response has been criticised and praised, but her unilateral decision has ramifications for all of Europe and has shown the weaknesses in a union with such distinctive countries.
Is for society (la société). Those areas voting for Brexit were identified as predominantly white, working class (la classe ouvrière ). Along with arguments raised under B and X one of the explanations given for the surprise result was that the free movement of people (La libre circulation des personnes) attributed to the European Union has meant that unskilled workers from poorer countries have immigrated to the UK. These workers are willing to accept far lower wages, therefor deflating the wages of those already here due to the nature of capitalism.
It can be argued though that it is the capitalist nature of society, unlike the socialist society of the French, that has led to this position. In France there is a protectionist culture (la culture protectiotnniste); welcoming newcomers that can support themselves, but willing to pay higher prices and wages to ensure that all have the dignity of work.
Is for terrorism (le terrorisme). A fear of the attacks in Paris as well as other European and Western societies being repeated was present and highlighted by that poster. Angela Merkel’s response to last summers refugee crises and the subsequent terror attacks that could be related back to it was seen as a direct threat to the European nations security due to the schengen zone. Subsequent efforts to stop the movement of people has led to the possible inclusion of Turkey into the zone in the coming years, and certainly giving its citizens access to the schengen zone now. This has further unnerved people. One of the debating points prior to the referendum was whether being a part of Europe increased or negatively affected our security.
Is for unemployment (le chômage), particularly of the young, in the UK and throughout the EU – in Italy, Greece and Spain amongst other countries. Free movement of people has been said to deprive poorer countries within the EU of their most enterprising, who leave to go to the richer nations for a better life. However this is argued to leave already struggling nations without the ‘resource’ (I hate talking about people in this manner) to develop their nations, and with an increased pool of labour that can be paid relatively little (see W) the rich nations within the EU become richer, whilst the gap between the rich and the poor within those nations becomes wider.
In addition creating a continent of essentially migrant workers also needs a larger welfare state to fulfil the roles that an otherwise closer community, with strong family ties for young families, would fulfil. In an era of austerity this may be hauling to some.
Is for workers rights (les droits). Many felt that the EU was the best way to stand against right wing business interests and nation states (see N). It is often stated that European laws protect maternity rights and other workers rights in general.
However France’s recent demonstrations against changes to working hours, including 0 hours contracts, along with the treatment of Greece suggests that the EU does not protect rights as we would wish.
Is for the young (les jeunes), said to have been robbed of their future by the elderly (l’ancienne). Those in the 18-24 category voted for Bremain, it is said, in total by 75%. Since the election there have been demonstrations (le manifestation) to overturn the vote (see P) predominantly attended by the young. It is argued that those with fewer years, who will therefore not have as much time to live through the ramifications, have voted for Brexit.
Is for the zone; euro that is. Despite the assertion that workers rights are protected by the European Union it’s certainly true that the financial crises and its impact on the eurozone has meant that heavy programmes of austerity (l’austérité) has left Greece reeling, and it’s democratically elected government challenged by the EU. In Italy too, as well as France countries have said to be unable to respond to their own needs, caged in the euro network.