OH, TO BE FRENCH! I speak here not of the food, the wine, the effortless chic or the peculiar ability to gobble foie gras day and night and remain mince comme un crayon. (Yes, women’s magazine editors in the UK are still falling for that one, quite unable to grasp that French people are just people who happen to be French.) No, I speak instead of having a coherent national identity.
To be French and speak French and live in France certainly looks like an easier rap than being Scottish, living in the UK and speaking a variant of English that makes taxi drivers in London go, “You what? I can’t understand you. It’s your accent, luv.”
The French also ditched their monarchy some time ago. This means that in moments of national crisis no-one, mais personne, suggests building a new royal yacht to bring the country back together. Perhaps it was inevitable that a country that is not really a country at all, but three countries and a bit of another country, would one day look at itself in the mirror and not like what it saw. Outre-Manche, that day has come. O yea. O yea. Brexit is now officially a catastrophe. It’s traditional at this point to say that the UK has become a laughing stock, but I think that’s being a bit generous, don’t you?
We are more like a spoilt child. “It’s not my fault; it’s Donald’s,” we squeak. “He said there was a special place in hell for us. It’s Michel’s fault. He didn’t stab the Irish in the back. He’s treating them like they’re at the top table and have a say. I mean, come on.” And we are ugly. Pot ugly. Parliamentarians are hounded on the street by thugs. Well known Tory toff Jacob Rees-Mogg approvingly retweets Alternative für Deutschland. Some parts of the country are represented by people like Mark Gino
Francois (no cedilla on the ‘c’; that’s foreign muck), an outstandingly good idiot who believes that Europe is FREE because of us, the British.
I refer him to the lyrics of Think Again by Billy Bragg. “Do you think that the Russians want war? / These are the sons and the daughters of parents who died in the last one.” Well, we can’t all be good at history, and I suppose this is what happens when you stop teaching “hard” subjects in school and focus instead on media studies and daffodil management. (Which, incidentally, is also why no one in the UK learns German any more. It’s awfully difficult. That means the Germans can read our newspapers, but we can’t read theirs. That doesn’t put us at a disadvantage, though, because they’re not British. Ha! Didn’t think of that, did you?)
Anyhoo, as we drive off the white cliffs of Dover Thelma & Louise-style but in a Hillman Imp, the UK financial services industry is sure to be a casualty. The sparkling towers of the City of London shall glint in regulatory darkness, before eventually collapsing into the Thames with a big, sad splash. The little trickle of press releases saying it’s all going to be fine or could even be good for financial services in the UK has dried up. The only question now is which European city will benefit most from London’s demise. Paris? Frankfurt? Dublin? Let us hope that some of the benefits flow to Dublin. Nothing could be more fitting. So, here we are, not waving but drowning. My husband has even stopped swearing at the radio of a morning. Now he just says, “Shall we listen to some music instead?” Goodbye, compadres. Au revoir. Those of you on what we sorry island dwellers have never managed to stop calling “the Continent” no doubt now hope that you will soon be able to bid us adieu.
Fiona Rintoul is editor-at-large at Funds Europe
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