The Brexit referendum is now in the history books. The 51.9% – 48.1% Vote Leave triumph has become a watershed moment in British, European and world politics. The stock market has been given a jolt and the pound has descended to its lowest level against the dollar since the era when the likes of Duran Duran, Culture Club and Kajagoogoo were regulars on Top of the Pops, the Iron Lady was only halfway through her time in office, Sting rhetorically questioned Russian parenting in his song lyrics and Super Gran was all the rage with the under 10 crowd.
The UK is now faced with impending exit negotiations to fix the terms of the nuts and bolts of the divorce from Brussels, hammering out a trade arrangement with the EU, and the task of working out migration related issues, as in what becomes of the EU migrants in the UK as well as British ones on the continent. Add to that the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron – who spearheaded the unsuccessful Vote Remain campaign – has announced he will be standing down before year’s end and one has a hard time discerning the silver lining on the clouds that now appear to be gathering over the British Isles.
There is, however, no shortage of optimism. The optimism referred to here comes not from the Remain camp, which is par for the course, with Nigel Farage going as far as saying that the 23rd June will go down as Britain’s independence day.
Despite the anguish that must now be widespread among British Remain supporters, and the palpable frustration of European Union representatives, the Brexit result has turned the newly soon-to-be non-EU member United Kingdom and its people into the objects of admiration of certain political elements elsewhere in the Union – those being far-right in nature.
Leader of the Front National in France, Marine Le Pen has been quick to shower the Vote Leave camp with copious praise. Perhaps not unlike the way Euroscepticism has gone from being a dirty word in the UK to a referendum-winning one by dint of the efforts of figures including, but not limited to, Nigel Farage (he himself said the phenomenon has gone from fringe to core issue), Mme Le Pen is reputed for having brought the party founded by her father – and once associated with shaven headed bully boys, revisionism and stifling social conservatism – in from the cold and turning it into less of an organisation of political lepers and more of a palatable movement, some would say deceptively so.
Today upon learning of the final result that the United Kingdom would be joining what she referred to as the much envied list of non-EU member European countries”, Mme Le Pen – seen above – held a press conference to give her thoughts. Here are a few key quotes:
- “We are experiencing a historical moment”.
- “The UK has taken back its liberty as a people”.
- “The sovereignty debate is now on the front burner”.
- “I salute the courage of the British people”.
- “What nobody thought could happen a few months ago is now an inescapable reality – yes it is possible to ditch the EU”.
- “Britain leaving the EU is an emphatic lesson in democracy”.
- “The British people didn’t give in to fear and chose liberty”.
- “Stock market uncertainty will be fleeting”.
- “It’s not up to international finance to dictate the fate of a nation”.
- “EU lies don’t stand up to reality”.
- “Hopefully the success of Brexit will lead to as many aftershocks as possible elsewhere in the EU”.
- “The Socialist and Republican (which she mockingly referred to by its former acronym UMP) together with mainstream media keep repeating that the EU and the euro are irreversible, but it’s not true”.
- “The UK will be more effective than ever now in formulating its own policies”.
- “Only sovereign policies are effective”.
- “Economic and migratory crisis are the EU’s legacy”.
- “Europe isn’t dead; the EU is but the Europe of free & sovereign nations is re-emerging”.
The Front National leader tips her hat to Brits for not having given in to fear. This, at first glance, would raise many an eyebrow given that reactionary fear is what opponents of the Brexit had been citing all along as a major factor behind Vote Leave’s momentum. The fear she is speaking is, however, not the inward-looking aversion to Other made famous in the play Huis Clos by French existentialist writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre; instead she speaks of the fear that gloom and doom predictions by many media houses and the thinly veiled threats from EU bigwigs past and present from Jean-Claude Juncker to José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy about the unenviable fate the lay in store for the UK in the event of a Brexit triumph.
Indeed, using a degree of hyperbole that would make one wonder if they were not instead perhaps referring to a less dynamic territory like Greenland, which opted out of the EU in the 1980s, these Brussels insiders did their best chicken little impression in claiming that a hapless non-EU UK just would not be able to hang with the big boys and fend for itself on its own in a world of gigantic countries and gigantic blocs. Their conventional wisdom, thus, had it that the 5th largest economy in the world, one of the 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council just wouldn’t be up to scratch. It is quite possible that just such a disingenuous attitude is what may have nudged some undecided voters towards Leave.
She also explained opined that Britain would easily work out a trade deal, just as non-European countries such as Mexico and South Korea have been able to do.
Highlighting the fact that EU institutions must respect Britain’s will, she called for high levels of vigilance as to the conduct of said institutions in the coming months so as to ensure that Britain was given a fair shake and not raked over the coals because of its decision.
The Europe of nations Le Pen is touting will be one of cooperation without integration, the way she sees it. She calls this the new European project. If she were to win next year’s presidential election in France, she promises that this new project of the Europe of nations will be given another shot in the arm following the Brexit when she arranges the referendum she has been calling for since 2012. Said referendum (Frexit?) would be held following 6 months of talks with the European Commission over the monetary / budgetary, economic, territorial and legislative issue areas she sees as the cornerstone of sovereignty.
Not to be outdone, another far-right figure in France Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of the Gaullist party Debout La France took to Twitter to gush over the success of Nigel Farage, with whom he has worked in the European Parliament under the Eurosceptic banner of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy political group. The 2 are pictured below, along with Dupont-Aignan’s tweet, which says “I’d like to congratulate Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, which is allied with Debout La France, for his remarkable campaign in favour of Brexit”.
The Debout La France leader went on to speak of the fall of the Brussels Wall, in a play on words that no being from earth all the way to Pluto needs to have explained to them, in a tweet that reads “it’s the fall of the Brussels Wall! An historic day. Up to us to take back our freedom”.
Le Pen and Dupont-Aignan, whose policy stances line up almost identically, save when it comes to social issues like abortion and the death penalty (as I mentioned earlier, the FN is very conservative vis-à-vis such matters), sent out tweets last night less than half an hour apart and with basically the same celebratory and optimistic tone; the former said “a victory for freedom! As I have been requesting for years, there must now be a referendum in France and the countries of the EU”, while the latter simply said “a great victory for democracy!”.
Turning their focus to France, but inspired by the unfolding events across the Channel, Debout la France tweeted out “How can the construction of Europe be envisaged when nations and democracies are being negated?”, and “Dupont-Aignan and Debout La France have been working on an alternative treaty to set up an organisation of nation-states”;which fits in quite well with Marine Le Pen’s assertion that “Europe isn’t dead; the EU is but the Europe of free & sovereign nations is re-emerging”.
Britain mania has also caught on among the ranks of the Dutch far-right, with the colourful (to say the least), not so Muslim-friendly Geert Wilders – who incidentally was once banned from entering the UK due to his incessant hate speech – having the following to say.
With the fan base they appear to be generating, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – who is a shoe in to succeed Cameron as prime minister – seem set to take the European political right by storm. A veritable British fever, if not invasion. Forget all the “what now?” questions about the post-Brexit UK. Another burning question is, who is the 4th Brexit Beatle?