'Frexit Nexit Auxit' branded Western style into a wooden hinged door - Brexit
Will the French be next to go?

French original text written by Sabrina Fernandez, student at Université Lumière Lyon 2. Translated by Ben Owen.

So the courageous nation of red-painted telephone boxes and Routemaster buses has left us for good, Brexit enacted and made manifest. It’s from here in France that I write this to you, dearest neighbours whom we will truly miss.

This year can’t have been easy for you. Any feeling we French might have settled on has been altered vis-à-vis recent events. However, our good friend in common COVID-19 and the new variant coming from England’s green and pleasant land are not the only recent happenings. Much has happened since you set down your star.

What I find incredible is the fact that we don’t really talk about Brexit all that much here. A few videos are broadcasted on TV. Despite this, the matter never takes centre stage in any setting. No matter our conversations with friends, family, or even with the professors at University.

Why do something so drastic when the world has its work cut out dealing with a terrifying public health emergency? You’ll have an answer soon. I’m sure Joe Biden will provide one, whether you like it or not.

But let’s look on the bright side of life! I carried out a survey amongst French students on the topic; a handful of brave volunteers took the time to reply. The responses were often basic, and quite a few even ignored the controversial subject matter to tell me about the aspects of British culture they liked the most. Not exactly what I had in mind on asking them for their views on Brexit, but we can improvise nonetheless.

Here are the results for French views on Brexit:

7 in 10 of the young French respondents stated that the UK was wrong to leave the EU. 23% expressed no opinion. One accompanying response was particularly interesting in this regard:

As a strong military power with economic prowess and a cultural image that remains attractive, the UK will pull through. Yet how will the country make an impact on the global stage where the world’s geopolitical balance is decided by superpowers like the USA and China? Will the United Kingdom even stay intact as one, “United” Kingdom (questions of Scottish independence, Irish reunification…)?

Placing the situation in the global – rather than exclusively Eurocentric – context highlights the value of these remarks. Another response also caught me somewhat off guard:

I applaud the Brits for making their choice. It is a democratic decision and for now, they have succeeded in breaking free from the supranational dictatorship that the European Union constitutes.

Of course, each to their own when it comes to politics, but this was something of a wakeup call for me as I remembered that le Frexit (the French version of Brexit, naturally) is a solution some envisage for our country. Keep calm and carry on: we’re French, and as long as we have something to complain and disagree about, Vive la France!

On a more serious note, if we go off the results from my study, over three quarters of young French people do not take the matter of Frexit in the least bit seriously. Provided that the far right is not in power, this does not pose a risk for us – so we hope.

What Now?

And what about the future we might now imagine without you, our neighbours? As I have said before, we don’t really talk about Brexit a great deal – a little bizarre for a country that has been our political ally. We have promoted economic growth and legal safeguards in Europe side by side. Let’s let time take its course, then, and see what tomorrow holds for our two nations’ story.

At any rate, it’s with a heavy head and heart that I bid you farewell, dear neighbours. Even though the English Channel has not at all become that much harder to cross, or that you are any less European than you were before.

À très bientôt, my dear British friends.

Ben Owen

A contributor to The Oxford Blue since its inception, Ben’s pieces explore topics as diverse as travel, literature, politics, and wine. His translation work has also helped foreign journalists share their ideas in the English language.