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Embarrassing Brexit, a French perspective

In the posh British embassy in France, no one thought Brexit would ever happen.

Back in 2016, I was invited to a cozy lunch at the British embassy in Paris, a few weeks before Brexit referendum. It was a half-British half-French assembly of well-positioned people. The discussion focused on EU’s responsibility in the referendum, and if the requests of David Cameron to improve the UK relationship with the EU made sense.

When I asked about what would happen if article 50 was triggered, everyone around the table looked a bit embarrassed.

They looked at me as if I was the odd man out, with expression saying “Poor her, she really does not have a clue about Britain, so let’s explain to her nicely that Brexit will not happen”.  I felt a bit lonely, but this is how journalists often feel. Anyway.

I remember the answer, provided by a British academic: “It’s all very clear, in this (unlikely) case the UK will leave within two years”, his mouth said, though his body language spoke: “Now please, let the adults in the room get back to a proper discussion”.

It was still blurry in my mind, as I wanted to ask who would replace the 73 MEPs, the British money, and what about the rebate… I didn’t get many answers that day.

Two years have passed, I have had answers to most of my questions, I have been shocked, surprised and sad to see the British political class sink that low. And like everyone in France I’m just fed up with Brexit.

The only request the EU has had was: if you want to leave, please do. But don’t forget to close the door.

But it seems our neighbours can’t even decide whether to close the door or not.

We have been discussing the topic for so many months, we have wasted tons of hours trying to draw a line between the possible and the impossible.

Now it seems that Eurostars train drivers coming from the UK on the 30 March could be stopped as their diploma won’t be recognized by the EU, that airlines could be grounded. British abroad start feeling nervous. And this conundrum will be happening a few weeks before an important EU election.

Frankly, it’s my turn to be sorry for this pathetic mess.

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