The Laughing Stock of Europe


If it weren’t so serious, the situation in Great Britain would almost be comical. The country is being governed by a talking robot, nicknamed the Maybot, that somehow managed to visit the burned-out tower block in the west of London without speaking to a single survivor or voluntary helper. Negotiations for the country’s exit from the EU are due to begin on Monday, but no one has even a hint of a plan. The government is dependent on a small party that provides a cozy home for climate change deniers and creationists. Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary. What in the world has happened to this country?

Two years ago David Cameron emerged from the parliamentary election as the shining victor. He had secured an absolute majority, and as a result it looked as if the career of this cheerful lightweight was headed for surprisingly dizzy heights. The economy was growing faster than in any other industrialised country in the world. Scottish independence and, with it, the break-up of the United Kingdom had been averted. For the first time since 1992, there was a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. Great Britain saw itself as a universally respected actor on the international stage. This was the starting point.

In order to get from this comfortable position to the chaos of the present in the shortest possible time, two things were necessary: first, the Conservative right wingers’ obsessive hatred of the EU, and second, Cameron’s irresponsibility in putting the whole future of the country on the line with his referendum, just to satisfy a few fanatics in his party. It is becoming ever clearer just how extraordinarily bad a decision that was. The fact that Great Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe is directly linked to its vote for Brexit.

The ones who will suffer most will be the British people, who were lied to by the Brexit campaign during the referendum and betrayed and treated like idiots by elements of their press. The shamelessness still knows no bounds: the Daily Express has asked in all seriousness whether the inferno in the tower block was due to the cladding having been designed to meet EU standards. It is a simple matter to discover that the answer to this question is No, but by failing to check it, the newspaper has planted the suspicion that the EU might be to blame for this too. As an aside: a country in which parts of the press are so demonstrably uninterested in truth and exploit a disaster like the fire in Grenfell Tower for their own tasteless ends has a very serious problem.

Already prices are rising in the shops, already inflation is on the up. Investors are holding back. Economic growth has slowed. And that’s before the Brexit negotiations have even begun. With her unnecessary general election, Prime Minister Theresa May has already squandered an eighth of the time available for them. How on earth an undertaking as complex as Brexit is supposed to be agreed in the time remaining is a mystery.

Great Britain will end up leaving its most important trading partner and will be left weaker in every respect. It would make economic sense to stay in the single market and the customs union, but that would mean being subject to regulations over which Britain no longer had any say. It would be better to have stayed in the EU in the first place. So the government now needs to develop a plan that is both politically acceptable and brings the fewest possible economic disadvantages. It’s a question of damage limitation, nothing more; yet even now there are still politicians strutting around Westminster smugly trumpeting that it will be the EU that comes off worst if it doesn’t toe the line.

The EU is going to be dealing with a government that has no idea what kind of Brexit it wants, led by an unrealistic politician whose days are numbered; and a party in which old trenches are being opened up again: moderate Tories are currently hoping to be able to bring about a softer exit after all, but the hardliners in the party – among them more than a few pigheadedly obstinate ideologues – are already threatening rebellion. An epic battle lies ahead, and it will paralyse the government.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said that he now expects the Brits to finally set out their position clearly, since he cannot negotiate with himself. The irony of this statement is that it would actually be in Britain’s best interests if he did just that. At least that way they’d have one representative on their side who grasps the scale of the task and is actually capable of securing a deal that will be fair to both sides. The Brits do not have a single negotiator of this stature in their ranks. And quite apart from the Brexit terms, both the debate and the referendum have proven to be toxic in ways that are now making themselves felt.

British society is now more divided than at any time since the English civil war in the 17th century, a fact that was demonstrated anew in the general election, in which a good 80% of the votes were cast for the two largest parties. Neither of these parties was offering a centrist programme: the election was a choice between the hard right and the hard left. The political centre has been abandoned, and that is never a good sign. In a country like Great Britain, that for so long had a reputation for pragmatism and rationality, it is grounds for real concern. The situation is getting decidedly out of hand.

After the loss of its empire, the United Kingdom sought a new place in the world. It finally found it, as a strong, awkward and influential part of a larger union: the EU. Now it has given up this place quite needlessly. The consequence, as is now becoming clear, is a veritable identity crisis from which it will take the country a very long time to recover.

Translated from the original article dated 17 June 2017 in Der Bund Switzerland:

Translation thanks to Paula Kirby


Are they the laughing stock of Europe, or are other EU countries just jealous ? When I say EU countries, I mean the population who live in those countries !!!

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Why would the population of other European countries be jealous?


Just to clarify - the article is from a newspaper in a non-EU country.

There was a cartoon the other day in The Times which depicted The Queen when she visited the survivors of Grenfell Tower. It showed Mrs May at the end of the line of people being presented to Her Majesty and the voice bubble said "and what is it you do?"
One might ask that very question. There’s a revolt brewing. £5m in funds (which nobody is receiving, by the way… the survivors are being handed a crisp £10 note on which to live in the aftermath which is a pittance when one remembers that Mrs May squandered £140m on an election that need not have taken place in the first place other than for her own amusement.
And now they have said that they will ‘suspend’ the next Queens speech on some sort of trumped up idea that this is necessary in order to allow the Brexit talks to progress. The real reason is stop any very likely challenge to the speech in a year’s time when the house has had enough of Mrs May’s coalition of chaos with the DUP.
She’s toast. The only thing stopping her demise by the party is that any likely contender for the leadership doesn’t want the blame for the inevitable mess falling on their shoulders.
She’s toast. She knows it, her party knows it, the Country knows it, the EU knows it, Even Trump knows it hence his reluctance now to waste his precious time on a loser.


Yep, that sums it up

An awful lot of French live in the UK for a reason. They don’t go there to retire like the British do in France. Retirement is one thing, earning a living is another.

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Thank you, you have just agreed with me. Europeans value their ability to work in other member countries, to live in one side of a national border and work on another. The French people working in the UK are taking advantage of the fact that it is easy to do so just like the tens of thousands of Britons working in Germany, Holland and Belgium are doing. Why would they want to throw away that opportunity? Once again you are showing your bias, your perceived superiority, your dislike for the many British nationals who have chosen to retire to rural France. You may not understand them but that is through your ignorance not theirs.
By the way you are generalising yet again; repetitive and boring.

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An awful lot of French go to London and the south of England to make money. That’s what the south of England is for, making money and spending it. Not much regulation, no social conscience to speak of, no qualms over building over large tracts of countryside, but good for earning and conspicuous consumption. If the money go round dries up, what will be left?

I’m thinking particularly about the south of England here because I think other parts still do have a soul, but they’re not where the wealth is nor where investment has been concentrated and if the south crashes, it risks affecting them too.

David, (with the greatest respect) you know a lot about Germany and the Limousin and classic cars…that is about it.

You have no idea about the current day to day employment problems and lifestyle stresses facing France today.

I hope Macron comes up with a solution because France is at breaking point. Believe me.

No MCA I do know, like you my closest family is French and I have lived and worked in Europe for most of my life. You are narrow minded and generalise too much. As you have also admitted you post to gain a reaction. You argument is flawed and narrow. PS I’m no expert on the Limousin but you have no right to say that is about it. You know nothing of my background, education, life experiences or knowledge. Your comment is an insult beyond belief. Yet again you make assumptions way beyond your knowledge and experience.

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Another Article from the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week:

Mark, France has had employment problems for as long as I can remember, and if it hasn’t broken France yet I don’t think it’s going to, not on its own. And I don’t think lifestyle stresses really exist outside of Paris and other big cities. The brush with breaking point has been and gone, there was a chance that people would vote for Le Pen but they didn’t, big danger over. For me the big difference between France and the UK is that the average person in France has a far more intelligent understanding of the problems facing the country than the average person in the UK and most of them are able to look at things objectively and judge what’s fair and what isn’t. As long as they feel Macron is doing the right things, I don’t think they will kick off, even if there is no quick solution. You could say they know there isn’t a magic money tree. Of course a minority will kick off over reforms but the majority will accept that they’re necessary. Another point I think is important is this ongoing debate in France over what France should be like, what its national values are and what being French means, it come up in every election campaign, and generally there is pretty widespread agreement. I remember a little spat in these last elections about multiculturalism, I think Macron said he didn’t see France’s future as promoting multiculturalism? Imagine that debate in the UK, what kind of consensus would you get there?
The problem with the UK is that it’s so divided, neither side seems realistic and neither side seems interested in finding a middle ground. It’s got to the point where they’re fighting for the sake of fighting, egos are getting in the way, pettiness is getting in the way, and they’ve totally lost sight of what they are actually fighting for.


I think they exist more to be fair.

What do you mean by “lifetime stresses” exactly?
To be honest the big stress at present in my town is that the mayor has recently introduced a 75€ fine for people who don’t pick up their dogs’ poo. I can’t believe the indignation that this has caused (specially considering that something badly needed to be done, the path by the river was turning into dog poo alley). And I’m thinking, that if being fined for leaving dog poo is such a big issue, folks really can’t have too much to worry about.


The biggest lifestyle stress in France is keeping your job or wishing to change job/career. Of course that is the same problem all over the world but in France as you know Ann, you have to have the right qualification for the right job. Even if you can competently do the job you still need the qualification. So if you lose your job or wish to change jobs that means retraining at great cost and time.

There is great insecurity in France regarding the fragility of the employment market because as you said your job is linked to everything. The amount of people I have heard of that have had burns out is just ridiculous.

Now factor in the stress of running your own business and the near impossibility of making money then yes, people are stressed out. What do you do, stay in your job and be bullied and be miserable ? Retrain and hope to find another job or start your own business ? This is the number one topic of conversation amongst my generation.

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Which is your generation Mark ?

Early 40’s.

All I can say is, job related stress isn’t the number one topic of conversation here.
There are a lot of family business, sons work in their fathers’ business until dad retires, then they take over, then their son joins them, etc. They have the usual concerns but no real stress.
The major employers are 2 food factories, most people work there. Since in France businesses can’t make staff redundant for economic reasons, unlike in the UK, people would only lose their jobs if the factories go to the wall and there are no rumours about that. There are 4 supermarkets of various sizes that employ staff, then banks, insurance agencies etc.
Then there’s the hospital, SAUR and EdF, they are all safe jobs.
One insurance agency and one immobilier closed down recently. A couple of small shops closed, no staff apart from the owners, and in both cases there was an agenda behind it and no great sympathy for them. A couple of shopkeepers have retired.
I’m sure some people are unhappy in their jobs and obviously some people can’t find work, but that’s pretty normal isn’t it. Very few people would even consider going self employed even if they are unemployed. They’d rather stay on chomage. When I first used to tell people I was self employed you could see their brains ticking over, trying to figure out how I could possibly be making a living. They still keep asking, rather incredulously, if I’m still doing OK and if I have plenty of work. To them, self employment is setting up a family business, usually artisan. The idea anyone would actually rely on making a living from sitting at home providing service over the internet is very strange to them.
So I’m not saying there is no job-related stress round here, what I’m saying is that it doesn’t affect most people, there is no mass panic because most jobs are secure. Main topics of conversation now the election is out of the way are, as always, family, how the kids are doing at school, holidays, and local issues like the new housing that’s being built, sniping at the mayor, oh yes and dog poo.
I suppose you could say that people round here don’t have a lot of ambition or high expectations and I suppose in a sense that’s true, most people are content with their homes and their lifestyles and as long as they can keep chugging along as they are, making modest improvements and watching the kids and grandkids grow up, that’s all they ask.


Businesses can make people redundant in France. It is an awkward process, but it can be done.

Is rural France representative France ? No, of course not. Most people live and work in large cities where the number one topic is ‘employment stress’ and everything else that brings with it.

Now, most of the voters for the front national come from rural France. They say that there are equally as many euro sceptics in France as there are in the UK. It is logical to assume that most are from rural France.

Simon asked if the UK is the laughing stock of Europe. Simon lives in rural France. Perhaps he should ask his neighbours.

I remember the day after the Brexit vote, I walked into the local tabac and the guy who runs it shook my hand and said well done. LOL.

The only people who think the UK is a laughing stock is the presse and EU politicians. Most people in France really don’t care and those that do, are probably pro Frexit.