How I came to dislike England


A Dutchman reflects on what he’s learnt by living in Britain for the last six years—it isn’t pretty
by Joris Luyendijk 

When I came to live in London with my family in 2011 I did not have to think of a work or residency permit. My children quickly found an excellent state primary school, and after a handful of calls we enjoyed free healthcare, and the right to vote in local elections. The only real bureaucratic hassle we encountered that warm summer concerned a permit to park. It all seemed so smooth compared to earlier moves to the United States, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel/Palestine. Then again, this time we were moving in with our cousins—weren’t we?

We had arrived as fellow Europeans, but when we left this summer to return to the Netherlands we felt more like foreigners: people tolerated as long as they behave. At best we were “European Union nationals” whose rights would be subject to negotiations—bargaining chips in the eyes of politicians. As we sailed from Harwich, it occurred to me that our departure would be counted by Theresa May as five more strikes towards her goal of “bringing down net immigration to the tens of thousands.”

The Dutch and the British have a lot in common, at first sight. Sea-faring nations with a long and guilty history of colonial occupation and slavery, they are pro free-trade and have large financial service industries—RBS may even move its headquarters to Amsterdam. Both tend to view American power as benign; the Netherlands joined the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Shell, Unilever and Elsevier are just three examples of remarkably successful Anglo-Dutch joint ventures. I say “remarkably” because I’ve learned that in important respects, there is no culture more alien to the Dutch than the English (I focus on England as I’ve no experience with Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland). Echoing the Calvinist insistence on “being true to oneself,” the Dutch are almost compulsively truthful. Most consider politeness a cowardly form of hypocrisy. Bluntness is a virtue; insincerity and backhandedness are cardinal sins.

So let me try to be as Dutch as I can, and say that I left the UK feeling disappointed, hurt and immensely worried. We did not leave because of Brexit. My wife and I are both Dutch and we want our children to grow roots in the country where we came of age. We loved our time in London and have all met people who we hope will become our friends for life. But by the time the referendum came, I had become very much in favour of the UK leaving the EU. The worrying conditions that gave rise to the result—the class divide and the class fixation, as well as an unhinged press, combine to produce a national psychology that makes Britain a country you simply don’t want in your club.

I am terribly sorry for my pro-EU middle-class friends in England, and even more sorry for the poor who had no idea that by supporting Brexit they were voting to become poorer. But this is England’s problem, not the EU’s: the nation urgently needs some time alone to sort itself out. So when those first “Leave” votes came in, I found myself making fist pumps at the television.

On the morning of 24th June 2016 the middle-class parents at my children’s school were huddling together in shock over the result. One or two were crying quietly when a working-class mother I knew walked up to a well-to-do mother who had been canvassing for Remain. “OUT! OUT! OUT!”, she shouted as she wagged her index finger. Then she walked off in triumph, back to her working-class friends at the other end of the playground.

Over the years, I had learned she was a warm person, yet on that day something stronger burst out. She had used the referendum to try to smash that expensive middle-class toy called the EU and it had worked. At last, for the first time in decades, those who felt like life’s losers openly defied the winners, and carried an election. Now her country would have £350m.

I’ve seen a good deal in England which suggested that, just maybe, not all was well with the collective psyche—the in-your-face binge drinking, the bookies stoking gambling addiction on every high street, the abject but routine neglect of public housing which went undiscussed until the Grenfell Tower fire.

But that scene on the morning after the referendum encapsulates my disappointment with the country. Not only the division, but also the way it had been inflamed. Why would you allow a handful of billionaires to poison your national conversation with disinformation—either directly through the tabloids they own, or indirectly, by using those newspapers to intimidate the public broadcaster? Why would you allow them to use their papers to build up and co-opt politicians peddling those lies? Why would you let them get away with this stuff about “foreign judges” and the need to “take back control” when Britain’s own public opinion is routinely manipulated by five or six unaccountable rich white men, themselves either foreigners or foreign-domiciled?

    “In-your-face binge drinking and gambling addiction are tell-tale signs that not all is well in the English psyche”

Before coming to Britain I had always thought that the tabloids were like a misanthropic counterpoint to Monty Python. Like many Europeans, I saw these newspapers as a kind of English folklore, laying it on thick in the way that theatrical British politicians conduct their debates in the House of Commons. Newspapers in the Netherlands would carry on their opinion pages articles by commentators such as Oxford scholar Timothy Garton Ash—giving the impression that such voices represented the mainstream in Britain. Watching QI before coming to the UK, I remember seeing Stephen Fry banter with Jeremy Clarkson and imagining the former was the rule, and the latter the exception. Living in London taught me that it is the other way around. George Orwell is still correct: England is a family with the wrong members in charge.

Read how Brexit will threaten national security—and why the government isn’t paying attention.

This has been a bitter pill to swallow for this Smiths fan who grew up in the 1980s on a cultural diet of Tolkien, Le Carré, The Young Ones, Spitting Image and The Singing Detective—these books being available in every library, and the programmes carried by our national broadcaster. I never knew much about French culture and politics, so if I had discovered that these are vile it would have meant travelling a far smaller mental distance. But the English? They were our liberators, a term still used more than 70 years after my mother saw the “Tommies” enter her home town of Eindhoven.

Until the tabloids are reformed and freed from editorial interference by their plutocratic owners, the rageful misunderstanding that I saw in the school playground will not go away. Tabloid readers will sometimes see through the bias on particular issues and against particular people, as many did when they voted for the demonised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in June. But when it comes to Europe and the world beyond, the campaign of chauvinism has been so unremitting, over so many decades, that it is much harder to resist. And as things stand, the journalists at those publications could never come out and admit that they have misjudged Brexit—that would mean not only losing face, but very likely losing their job. Indeed, where is the investigative reporting about the exact quid pro quo when Rupert Murdoch or Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre come out in support of, say, Theresa May? Most British journalists, with a few noble exceptions, are too terrified of the press barons to pursue such questions.

Time out: Britain needs a period of self-reflection

That scene at my children’s school last year showed up another side of English society: entrenched inequality. In the Netherlands, schools are not ranked, and nor are universities. Sought after secondary schools and universities use a lottery to decide who is admitted—the opposite of the generally hyper-competitive and market-based English model. (There have been experiments with school lotteries in England, but these have run into outrage because of the perception that giving every child an equal chance is—in some unspecified way—profoundly unfair.)

    “The Brexit vote was the logical outcome of a set of English pathologies”

You could, if you’ve been as frustrated by the Dutch educational system as I was, characterise it as institutionalised mediocrity. But the good thing about it is that it really doesn’t matter for your identity or your prospects exactly which school or university you went to—not in the way it does in England. Dutch people are unfamiliar with that English ritual where two highly educated people try to work out which one has the edge: state school or private? Oxford, Cambridge, or some other place? If Oxbridge, what college?

I have seen plenty of English middle-class parents jump through crazy hoops to get their children into the “right” school. I have seen friendships ripped apart when one couple sends their daughter to a private school and the others do not. I was not surprised to read that Jeremy Corbyn’s second marriage collapsed over the question of whether to send his son to a selective school.

Read Jay Elwes on how May’s speech was the perfect metaphor for a country which has lost its voice.

It is quite ironic that a nation that gave the world the term “fair play” sees the fact that rich children receive a better education than poor ones as a perfectly natural thing. I remember asking around at the Guardian, where I had been hired to investigate the City of London, why this progressive newspaper did not put the school system centre stage. This is how the elites clone themselves, is it not? The answer: most of our management and prominent writers went to private school themselves and most are sending their children there, too, so that would invite the charge of hypocrisy. I struggle to blame those former Guardian colleagues knowing that two thirds of all top jobs in England today go to the 7 per cent of children who have attended private schools. Are you really going to sacrifice your child’s prospects to make an individual stand which will change nothing?

Nor do I blame working-class people for seething at a system where by the time you are 11 the die is cast, and where—to add insult to injury—you are constantly told that this is a meritocracy where all that counts is hard work and being “aspirational” (a word that does not even exist in Dutch). And one in which you hear everyone talk about “public schools.” That is like calling a taxi a form of “public transport” or indeed, naming dilapidated zones of social housing “estates.” (Seriously, middle-class Englanders, how will you ever straighten yourselves out if you can’t even say what you mean, and mean what you say?)

If I were English and working class, the loaded dice and the accompanying cant would make me very bitter—a bitterness that was cleverly harvested by the “Leave” camp. Yes, there were factors beside class that bore on the vote: voters in London and Scotland broke for “Remain,” and pensioners broke for “Leave.” But class was central: the connection between voting “Leave” and having finished education early was just as strong as the endlessly-discussed age dimension. And the same bitterness will, surely, be harnessed again until the root cause is addressed.

There is another, final, side to this class system à l’Anglaise. It seems to breed a perspective on the world that is zero-sum. Your class system is a form of ranking. For one to go up, another must go down. Perhaps this is why sports are such an obsession. There, too, only one can win. It was striking for this Dutchman to see an innocuous school dance be concluded with the designation of a winner. The result: all the other eight-year-olds went home slightly or clearly annoyed for not having won. Why not just let them dance? There seems to be in English culture—with its adversarial courtrooms, and its parliamentary front benches two swords’ length apart—an almost reflexive need to compete, to conclude a process by declaring a winner. The expectation that English children will learn to put a brave face on the hurt of losing doubtless deepens the scars.

The English consequently struggle to understand the “one plus one is three” concept of co-operation so fundamental to the EU. The word “compromise” has an almost negative ring in English popular culture; the idea gets dismissed as “fudge,” rather than a worthwhile outcome that can help everyone benefit.

Could there be a causal relation between English hostility to the EU and this wider adversarial culture? Does it make English soil especially fertile for those press barons to plant their seeds of slander? I began to wonder about when this hostility began to hurt. I was surprised by this feeling since, until then, I had never given much the European side of my identity much thought. I have often heard Muslim friends say that it was only the attacks of 9/11 that had made them Muslim. Suddenly everybody regarded them as Muslims and so over time, they began to feel as such. Something similar happened to me when the EU referendum campaign started.

I began to realise that there are powerful people in England who actively want the EU destroyed. They are full of aggressive contempt for everything the Union stands for. Even David Cameron could not bring himself to go to Oslo with other EU leaders to receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Given the deep competitiveness of the English, it may be that they need the EU to feel superior; we may have lost the empire and be less than 1 per cent of the world’s population but ……

This attitude then justifies the enduring ignorance about the EU, its member states and European culture generally. “We don’t even know who they are,” shrieked Brexiter Andrea Leadsom during a televised debate about the EU’s so-called five presidents. You could tell she thought this was a really good argument to use: we don’t know who they are, so that must be their fault.

The superiority complex feeds a sense of entitlement, which Cameron played to by demanding “concessions.” The word says it all. Apparently membership is a favour of the English people to the EU and in exchange there must be rebates, opt-outs and special status. Every “Remain” as well as “Leave” supporter that I have spoken to automatically assumed I would be against Brexit.

Consider that Brexiteer line—the EU “needs us more than vice versa.” It’s abject nonsense, as was the presumption that after the Brits voted to leave, other EU countries would follow.

In October last year Peter Foster, who is the Europe Editor and an increasingly-rare measured voice on the Daily Telegraph, wrote an article calling on Theresa May to “accept publicly that the European side has as much right to guard their interests as the UK does.” He then continued that, “It might also be worth acknowledging, that, on balance, the EU27 also has more power to protect its interests in these negotiations than Britain does.”

Just imagine the French centre-right newspaper Le Figaro or its German equivalent Die Welt publishing an opinion piece pleading with its readers to understand that “the British people have national interests, too.” The thought would never occur. That is the difference between England on the one hand and serious European countries on the other.

This, then, was how, for the first time in my life, I began to feel European. Though no pro-EU federalist, I was suddenly being defensive over something I had never actively supported. In fact, I think there are good reasons for the Netherlands to leave the EU, just as there are good reasons to stay. The EU is a dilemma full of trade-offs. But what I do think is that if the EU is to become truly democratic it needs to conduct an honest and open debate about what it wants to be, and then build the structures to go with it. An existential debate of that kind followed by either dismantling or reinvention requires good faith. This is almost entirely missing from the English side where “Remain,” too, campaigned on the promise that the UK could veto any further integration. Hence my support for Brexit.

Ever since the referendum, friends from across the world have been enquiring whether it is true that the British have gone mad. Without those six years in London, I would have unhesitatingly said “yes.” “A temporary bout of insanity” still seems the preferred explanation in much of Europe and among many British Remainers. But years of immersion in English culture and society have convinced me that actually, the Brexit vote should instead be seen as the logical and overdue outcome of a set of English pathologies.

Which brings me to my real anxiety. It is extremely difficult to see a scenario in which this whole Brexit saga could end well.

The Tories are seared by Europe, as they have been for a generation, only now with more intensity; Labour looks incapable of overcoming its own divisions on the question. Neither party dares to speak the truth to millions of people who have voted for a “have your cake and eat it” option that was never on the menu. How to carry out the will of the majority when the majority voted for something that does not exist?

Legally, politically and logically the EU cannot give the UK the kind of deal that would draw this chapter to a happy close. Britain will pay a horrible price for a hard Brexit. The alternative should be a sweet soft deal, except that this will then encourage every EU member state to demand their own special arrangement, and that would be the end of the EU. The fact that even Remainers keep exhorting the EU “not to punish us” demonstrates just how incapable the English are of reckoning with anyone else’s point of view.

The one real alternative is that Britain reverses course, gets on its knees, and begs to be let back in. This could be the most dangerous outcome of all. While the imagination of many “Leave” voters remain in the grip of the tabloids, any concession to the reality of national interests risks inflaming rage and cries of betrayal. As for the EU, it is first and foremost a rule-based organisation. If the rules around Article 50 were bent to allow Britain back in on special terms, then the whole edifice is undermined. Scotland should be let in if it wants, and Northern Ireland too. But England is out and must be kept out—at least until it has resolved its deep internal problems. Call it nation building.

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Comments

  1. Adrian B.October 6, 2017 at 21:04As a European first, British second, and English last, I agree with almost all you say. Earlier today, I wrote the following, as part of a longer piece: “Humans instinctively look for patterns, everywhere. No doubt, this is linked to the survival instinct. Observing patterns helps with predictive powers. For all of us, the future is open and uncertain. But understanding the odds, and reading the game well, provides an edge. An edge can make all the difference. Before the referendum, I knew it could go either way. And still the outcome was completely unexpected. Not for the first time, the mind was way ahead of the heart. For some time before the referendum, and certainly after it, there has been a seismic shift in our nation. A slipping of social and political tectonic plates. A sharpening of weapons. A hardening of attitudes. An alignment of wholly different philosophies across a fault line in the fabric of society. A temporary suspension of ancient hostilities between right and left. To make way for the birth of new and more intensive hostilities between Leavers and Remainers. A broken economic model, an ever growing inequality between the rich and the poor, those who are comfortable and those fighting the poverty line, have given impetus to protest. And rightly and inevitably so. The problem now is that the common good has been lost in the pointless trading of abuse and insult. The trivialisation of matters of national and international importance lend a kind of surreal quality to what are real questions requiring real solutions. All the old certainties about Britain, its general pragmatism and tolerance, its inclusiveness and diversity, its compromise and common sense, are gone. We are now engaged in a bitter civil war of ideology. Words and hearts and minds. The people who won are so angry, sometimes because they have been losing for so long, and they are very dismissive of the people who lost. Slowly, inexorably, the people who lost are striking back at the people who won. Be very clear: this is a war, the chaotic state of being that the European project was designed to prevent. It is often said that the pitch of the battle is between the reason of the Remainers, and the emotion of the Leavers. But that simply isn’t true. After the referendum, like so many others, I was inconsolable. I grieved. And still I grieve. This is not the product of reason, but emotion. Remainers plead reason, but bleed emotion. The tragedy lies in shared values loved and lost, connections cherished and broken, good things cast aside, a whole way of life and internationalism rejected and discarded. A project that has secured peace and prosperity for so many people, for so long. Something noble, intrinsically worthwhile, bringing nations together, despite their immense differences. A great vision never fully realised. Imperfect, but like democracy, so much better than all of the alternatives. ” Something is coming to England which will drive change. It cannot remain as it is. It needs to find positive values, and build a better, more socially and economically just society. Right now, England is in the wilderness. I wish you health and happiness in your homeland.
    1. Eva TannerOctober 7, 2017 at 14:23Thank you so much for this helpful text!
    2. Timothy BOctober 7, 2017 at 23:05I have some sympathy with your argument – and share your broad position on Brexit, which I think the worst public decision of my lifetime (I am 71) but I wonder whether the changes in national attitudes that you point to are so recent – or perhaps whether the past that current attitudes are contrasted with is as mythical as the never-never land of the Brexiters’ imagination. I used to think that the England that I grew up in (I cannot speak for Scotland) was balanced, commonsensical, even-handed, tolerant etc, and I have for some time lamented what seems to be the disappearance of these qualities. But if things changed, they certainly didn’t change in June last year, and I increasingly wonder whether it was something of a myth that this was the national character anyway. Perhaps all that happened is that the vote has legitimised the expression of feelings of superiority, xenophobia and ignorant isolationism that were always there but suppressed. I have never been a nationalist, and if forced to choose a label would choose European above anything else, but never before have I felt quite so uncomfortable with being British.
    3. Timorous BeastieOctober 8, 2017 at 08:51Sad to say I agree with everything you say. I believe the seeds of what England and to a lesser extent Britain has become were sown in the Thatcher years when the dominant themes were greed is good,no such thing as society and maximise your own wealth now by ensuring you participate in your own wealth creation by buying national assets at prices discounted so far you can’t fail to then sell shortly thereafter at a huge personal profit . As a Scottish resident things are not so bad here but as witnessed by the recent strong rise in support for the Conservative party in Scotland (already visibly wilting) we mustn’t be complacent.Hopefuul we can find a way to stay in.
    4. Pieter BrusselsOctober 9, 2017 at 11:42Thank you for sharing your intellectually superior ideas through these eloquently expressed feelings.
    5. WSOctober 10, 2017 at 17:55Far too much hate in this article. Loathe is a very strong word. The EU is fundamentally undemocratic its primary legislative body the Commission isn’t elected and it’s parliament is structured around patronage and public funding for selected groupings designed to concentrate power at the centre of the spectrum. The EU has sought to concentrate power for itself and weaken the nation states first by taking over trade policy, then external borders using Shengen and latterly monetary and fiscal policy. In his State of the Union speech Junker indicated more powers will be centralised, with veteos and opt outs being further diminished. It’s also worth remembering that the real influence in the media is the liberal elite, the billionaires who through political patronage and control over technology exert vastly more influence on politics than the Newspaper barons. The only mistake the UK made was getting so snared in the tentacles of the EU there is now a piece of work to free ourselves. Don’t expect the EU to act for the people or economies of Europe it needs to punish the UK before she proves a simple trade relationship is far superior to EU membership.
      1. Ben PattersonOctober 12, 2017 at 15:56This is a wonderful example of how the Leave vote rested on complete ignorance of how the EU actually works. The Commission is not the EU’s main legislative body. In fact it is not a legislative body at all! Just like most modern systems, the EU legislature consists of two chambers: the directly-elected European Parliament and the indirectly-elected Council, representing the Member States. Primary legislation needs to be voted through by both. Andthe European Parliament, elected by broadly proportional systems, is arguably more representative of the EU electorate than the House of Commons is of the British. As for the House of Lords….
      2. TyblingsOctober 15, 2017 at 12:28Thank you so much for writing this comment. You have encapsulated, perfectly, how I feel about the present situation.
      3. LindaWNovember 11, 2017 at 11:43Totally agree. An illuminating article but at its core a huge misunderstanding of British values. Our society is in need of adjustment and is in the process of re-finding our positive values to build a better, more socially and economically just society – the values we lost by becoming entwined with the EU. ‘..shared values, connections, a whole way of life and internationalism rejected.’ This is not how I see leaving the EU but what happened when over the years of being a member of the EU state! We were head of the Commonwealth, promoted free trade around the World, influenced development in Countries and cities around the World. We were a happier nation when we were connected to people with whom we shared values and language – Canada, Australia, New Zealand. In the EU we lost our voice and our confidence and became subservient as has Greece, Italy and Spain. Brexit is nothing to do with class, age, money or education it is a fight against disrespect and repression and for self-determination and if we succeed others will follow.
  2. James ODonnellOctober 7, 2017 at 08:50As a EU critic I hoped and was pleased the UK voted Leave primarily because I think with the UK still in with a 52/48 vote for, the paralysis would continue and there would be no chance of it making the transition from exposing citizens to insecurity rather than protecting them. I would trace it back to the Danish No to Maastricht when the UK lead the counterDelors resistance on the “do more with less” notion which meant EU-enforced regulation but with none of the protective tools that were needed to balance it (a smaller budget with greater needs than 1994!). Imagine the Cameron/Osborne line at the first post referendum won Summit. Sure there are risks for all with Brexit but for the EU, at least there’s now a possibility.
  3. Will HOctober 7, 2017 at 09:48It’s a great article. But there are a couple of generalisations. Firstly not all English (I hate calling myself that now) Remain supporters think that the UK should have concessions, opt outs, or a veto. The UK should have the same rules as everyone else. You can’t have a club where one member has special terms. Secondly I’m aware from a lot of street level campaigning that many EU citizens in Britain support Brexit, sometimes passionately so. In some cases they are nationalists themselves, other times they do think that the EU is better off shot of the spoilt, belligerent British (English). That the EU27 can now move on is possibly the one good thing to come out of Brexit. The English have too many hang ups, empire fantasies, a mixture of both inferiority and superiority complexes (how they love it when they sometimes beat the Germans at football, although never in the really important games, 1966 excepted). There is this reality disconnect that we can do better out of the EU, because we’re bold and British. It was the EEC and North Sea oil that saved Britain back in the first place. It is a screwed up country, with problems on so many levels, including wealth unbalances. I feel sorry for young Brits, but perhaps in years to come, and with a different mind set, Britain could rejoin the EU.
  4. David PatersonOctober 7, 2017 at 09:50It is a fascinating (and a little ironic) to see a piece written by a Dutchman that spells out – almost word-for-word – what could easily be the content of a textbook or course on intercultural communication and understanding and specifically the chapter that highlights the key differences between the culture of the Netherlands and England. For example his description of Dutch “low context” communication style and the underlying cultural values “Echoing the Calvinist… cardinal sins” Is spot on (though he missed a description of the opposite English “low context” style which abhors the risks of conflict caused by directness). As is the contrast between the adversarial and competitive nature of much of English culture and the compromise and cooperative nature of Dutch. These are very well known differences in that field. The other thing that is very well known is that such differences (especially in cultures that are otherwise quite similar) tend to become jarring and hard to deal with mainly in circumstances of stress where they become more obvious and more polarised (e.g. in the aftermath of a contentious referendum). The slight irony is that the Dutch have been disproportionately influential in this field of study and practice for many years (Hofstede, Trompenaars) and it is a little surprising that a well educated Dutch journalist seems completely unaware of the subject and surprised to find that he wasn’t quite as similar to the English as he thought. If he had read the Dutch original version of Geert Hofstede’s “Software of the Mind” before he left NL he might have understood it better.
    1. David PatersonOctober 7, 2017 at 19:55Sorry, should be English “high context”.
      1. GiOctober 9, 2017 at 16:23Well said David Patterson, the Dutch are always full of double Dutch. I live in the Netherlands and I crave my fellow British on a daily basis. The Dutch are so proud of their directness but they don’t realize that they are simply rude and abhorrent. They are actually not friendly and very bitchy, not educated properly with a huge chip on their shoulder about the public schools of the UK. So don’t be surprised if this guy didn’t read anything before he entered England!
        1. TomNovember 6, 2017 at 11:49So, directness and saying what you mean instead of ‘wooly talk’ is rude? Perhaps it is perceived as rude – but what is worse – a gentle and sweetened lie, or a harsh truth? And, if you miss the British or English so much – are you looking enough for them? There are a lot of British people living in The Netherlands (the BritSoc being a group for them that I know of) – so you may not be looking for them as much as you pretend to. But, rest assured, if things keep continuing, you might be going back to Britain/England – if the politicians keep on using people as bargaining chips. I`d say that is much worse than the directness of the Dutch or the sweet untruths by the English.
    2. Jeroen wieOctober 10, 2017 at 16:47Maybe the writer, who has a degree in cultural anthropology, exaggerated his ‘surprise’ regarding the cultural differences between the Netherlands and Brittain as a rethoric trick.
  5. DAVID_WARDENOctober 7, 2017 at 10:36There are deep pathologies within England but these are nothing to do with the EU debate. We are leaving the EU because it is undemocratic – that is the EU pathology which is stoking far-right populism across the continent. It is also saddled with a doomsday currency created by its technocrats. Well good luck to the EU. As Theresa May said in her Florence speech, we want the EU to succeed and we want to have a good trading relationship with it. Is that so difficult for the EU to swallow? We are a trading nation and from March 2019 we will be free to strike trade deals around the globe. The EU will want to trade with us.
    1. David MOctober 7, 2017 at 22:17Are you Liam Fox? The EU is undemocratic how, exactly? I’d love specifics, if possible. Then I’ll tell you how you’re wrong. Far-right populism is stoked by racists and bigots and morons. It isn’t the EU’s doing. Oh, sure, far-right leaders like Farage will work their supporters into a real lather over the “undemocratic” EU, but it’s all just cover. The EU doesn’t need to get over anything. The EU has been nothing but transparent and incredibly clear since we triggered A50. It’s hardly their fault that, despite all the talk of how the EU referendum would finally put Tory EU divisions to bed, it’s done nothing but drive that wedge even deeper. Now it’s hard-Brexit proponents vs soft-Brexit proponents, with the only sane members of that doomed party left out in the cold. You’ve got Theresa May – a Remainer, remember – so desperate to prove her Brexiteer credentials that she’s willing to tank our economy and reduce us even more to a tiny island nation with barely any industry and nothing to offer the world except delusions of grandeur. My man, enjoy your ‘free’ United Kingdom. For as long as it stays United. How much pull on the world stage do you think this shitty little island is going to have once Scotland goes its own way and then – inevitably – Ireland becomes one? The Kingdom of England & Wales, oh boy.
      1. NeilOctober 9, 2017 at 17:00Here’s your proof. “Moreover, the Eurogroup, where all the important economic decisions are taken, is a body that does not even exist in European law, that operates on the basis that the ‘strong do as they please while the weak suffer what they must’, that keeps no minutes of its proceedings, and whose only rule is that its deliberations are confidential – that is, not to be shared with Europe’s citizenry. It is a set-up designed to preclude any sovereignty traceable back to the people of Europe.” Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Finance Minister. So there are no rules, no records, no democratic process and no democratic accountability…and this is what is in charge of the world’s largest economic engine. http://thesaker.is/the-hopelessly-corrupt-structure-of-the-eurozone-the-eurogroup/
        1. Simon COctober 10, 2017 at 11:30I’d be very wary of taking any utterances by Yanis as proof of anything. He has his own agenda, and seeks to excuse and justify his own abject failure when in government.
        2. Giannis L.October 11, 2017 at 14:26Instead of attacking the person try to answer the points he is making,or maybe cause you cant counter them you attack the person?
        3. Oliver ClarkOctober 18, 2017 at 11:39″The Eurogroup is the recognised collective term for informal meetings of the finance ministers of the eurozone, i.e. those member states of the European Union (EU) which have adopted the euro as their official currency. The group has 19 members. It exercises political control over the currency and related aspects of the EU’s monetary union such as the Stability and Growth Pact. Its current president is former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The ministers meet in camera a day before a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) of the Council of the European Union. They communicate their decisions via press and document releases. This group is related to the Council of the European Union (only Eurogroup states vote on issues relating to the euro in Ecofin) and was formalised under the Lisbon Treaty.” That sounds quite a long way from your description of the Eurogroup. For a start they don’t make decisions, they recommend them to an elected body. For another, they are made up of elected finance ministers from the 19 eurozone countries. Lastly, they release their decisions via press and publically available document releases. Sounds democratic and open to me. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurogroup for more details.
    2. RobHOctober 8, 2017 at 04:57I think we’ve all read comments that are almost word-for-word identical to yours under EVERY Brexit piece written. So, for a refreshing change, what are your comments in response to those written in the piece above?
    3. Joyce NewtonOctober 9, 2017 at 14:06How democratic is your ‘first past the post system’, where politicians can win with a minority vote? How democratic is it to buy the votes of the DUP for 1 billion pounds? How democratic is it that the DUP, with only 300.000 votes gained 10 seats, while for example the LibDems gained 12 seats with 2.3 million votes?
    4. Yao AnthonyOctober 9, 2017 at 17:06Many British people complain and have been moaning always about the EU or EU Commission not being democratic. How democratic is the second house of parliament in UK the so-called house of lords? Many in this house sit there not by merit but because the great or great, great, great, grand parents were land or slave owners during the days of colonial plunder.
    5. GerardOctober 9, 2017 at 20:31There are few things more hilarious than Brits, with their House of Lords, calling the EU institutions undemocratic.
  6. jimmymackOctober 7, 2017 at 10:40England as seen from London through the eyes of a not very perceptive, rather self-obsessed, somewhat smug observer, and, as a result, really not worth the (over-long) read or an over-long response. Joris, we have no intention of getting on our knees and begging to be ‘let back in’. We’ll leave it to our continental neighbours to beg in the face of despotism – ask your mother. You might also want to remind yourself that our ‘long and guilty’ history of slavery was nowhere near as long as yours. We ended the trade into our colonies in 1807 and then set about making the rest of the world give it up. The Dutch stuck with slavery until 1863. Prospect – I’m a free speech person so am happy with you giving space to a bigot who ‘loathes’ an entire country. I sense, however, you would not be quite so welcoming of a piece where the author professes to loath some other country – let’s say India or Nigeria.
    1. Jan COctober 10, 2017 at 15:11As a Dutchman of long UK residence (in the 1980s), I just want to thank you for this debunking. Dear Joris is terribly well-known here in the Netherlands for his bank-bashing ideology which, alas, has made him a great deal of money with the sales of his book on the City. Selective analysis, bad anthropology, tendentious, rabble-rousing stuff. The fact that he seems in fact to have hated the Brits makes it all rather clearer. And even less credible.
  7. Alan M.October 7, 2017 at 11:36The writer probably hates England, tabloids and ‘press barons’ more because he has the predictable political views of a person who writes for the Guardian than because he is a Dutchman Love this bit “Why would you allow a handful of billionaires to poison your national conversation with disinformation—either directly through the tabloids they own, or indirectly, by using those newspapers to intimidate the public broadcaster?” Boo, Hoo. Poor BBC. Such impertinent criticism should never be allowed! Possibly from the writer’s tone of surprise and (moderate – he wrote for the Guardian) outrage he is unaccustomed to press criticism of a public broadcaster. Presumably in the Netherlands the tabloids know their place.
    1. MichaelOctober 7, 2017 at 12:56There are several unsubstantiated accusations and borderline conspiracy theories in this opinion piece. In the US, we call this “fake news”.
      1. David MOctober 7, 2017 at 22:44There is substantial coverage available around the people behind the major Leave campaigns. It’s all pretty shady stuff. You may not believe that those people, or their intentions, were shady – perhaps they’re just proud, British patriots who genuinely believe the UK as a whole will be better off outside the EU. But it’s hardly fake news. In the US, you guys calls lots of stuff fake news – I believe the Orange Dotard popularised the term recently. Generally, it appears that news you don’t like gets called fake. Not healthy.
    2. StuartOctober 7, 2017 at 14:48I think you miss the point. Our national discourse and attitude towards the rest of the world has been poisoned by the tabloids – especially Mail, Express, Sun. If you haven’t noticed I suspect it’s because you haven’t been paying attention.
  8. David B.October 7, 2017 at 11:45As a remainer it’s hard to accept the argument, but Joris is near the mark. Everything that has happened since the vote culturally, politically and economically points to the country needing a major reboot. Brexit is the only way to find out if we can thrive (or even survive) at a global level without Europe and we can’t move forward as a nation until we have a better understanding of where we really are in the World. Let’s hope we don’t pay too high a price finding out!
    1. fredOctober 8, 2017 at 09:54England (The UK) has always differed from the collective European and always will . Our ‘Britishness’ is what makes or breaks us and started way before Brexit.. You should read Orwell ‘s 1941 essay England Your England. It is written ‘during The Blitz of 1941 as bombers of Nazi Germany flew overhead. It is his attempt to define British culture and the British people for the rest of the world as he fears that it might soon be wiped from earth by the Nazi armies’ ( Wikipedia) ” A Scotsman, for instance, does not thank you if you call him an Englishman. You can see the hesitation we feel on this point by the fact that we call our islands by no less than six different names, England, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles, the United Kingdom and, in very exalted moments, Albion. Even the differences between north and south England loom large in our own eyes. But somehow these differences fade away the moment that any two Britons are confronted by a European. It is very rare to meet a foreigner, other than an American, who can distinguish between English and Scots or even English and Irish.”
      1. Joyce NewtonOctober 9, 2017 at 14:11Dear Fred, could you please define what it means to be British, or explain Britishness? I think there is a bit of a problem here, its called an identity crisis.
    2. GegenbeispielOctober 12, 2017 at 03:25A rebbot at this point in time would be dangerous – the English rightists (the so-called “centre” post-Thatcher) would likely use it to destroy the British welfare state, human rights and workers rights in the name of patriotism.
  9. C K.October 7, 2017 at 12:08It is very interesting to see how commenters manage to confuse concern with contempt. For one person the writer must be wrong because the abolishment of slavery in England seems to have been earlier than that of the Netherlands (forgetting that England transported 10 times more slaves in a shorter period of time and the hidden slavery in UK colonies that had to fight for their freedom still in the sixties). For the other person the writer is wronged by concentrating on the poor BBC while quickly stepping over the millions of unfortunate readers who are bombarded day after day with screaming headlines that purely serve the interests of the papers’ overseas owners. It just indicates how difficult it is to see daylight when blinding headlights are focussed on your face day-in day-out. I suggest to just forget what Joris wrote for the time being and see how you feel in a year’s time. Predictions usually do not outlast reality after all!
    1. JimmyMackOctober 7, 2017 at 19:32’…confuse concern with contempt.’. Loath’ isn’t concern. It IS contempt. On the slavery question, the Dutch carried on the trade half a century after enlightened opinion throughout the civilised world had accepted it as an abomination. It is historically illiterate for the author to lump the English and the Dutch together on this matter.
      1. IainOctober 8, 2017 at 09:49As my old maths teacher said: two wrongs don’t make a right.
      2. HOctober 8, 2017 at 13:58The Dutch got rich off the slave trade with the West Indies, didn’t they? That was THEIR trade. And what about the rather rampant exploitation of Indonesians which began under the cultuurstelsel by Johannes van den Bosch. And the policy of not inclusing people in these foreign countries from economie hain by shutting them out of any language learning, which was quite different from the French and English (which are by no means guilt free). The Dutch being as money-minded as they are really know how to exploit a colony. Why not ask them about the politionele acties too?
      3. HowstrangeOctober 8, 2017 at 18:29Yes, because the Brits were complete saints in ALL of their colonies after the act in 1807, right? Come on, the author is not out to compare who was worse! He just mentioned that both Britain and The Netherlands benefited from colonial times by the rather grim act of exploiting other countries. You provide an excellent example of ‘British Exceptionalism’ thinking that has fuelled the desire to leave the EU. I think it’s a shame for the UK’s future generations that this diminishing, nonsensical thought had the slight majority in 2016…
      4. RutgerOctober 10, 2017 at 14:02Funny how the discussion here had changed from Brexit to who abolshished slavery first. Yes, Britain abolished it first. Then they (and the rest of the Anglo – Saxon world) introduced a new system, Segregation (the Brits even went so far as to use a Dutch word when doing so, Apartheid). Read Joris’ comments on this British school system and how it’s designed or (mis-) used to keep a class system in place. Spot on. So, until the 1960’s and even in some ways, the British are still in this in this system of upper an lower classes. And the upper classes still feel they have some God-given right to all sorts of exceptions. Hence Britain was never to succeed as a part of the EU, despite Churchill’s dreams and efforts. Since the Thatcher years Britain has been frustrating the EU. Good riddance, I say. The EU now has at least some chance of succeeding. And yes, a hard Brexit should be the only course. It will hurt my country somewhat too, our Central Planning Bureau (CPB) calculated a loss in trade of 10-14 billion Euros. But hey, we will survive that and in the long run find new partners. Scotland and Northern Ireland, I hope they join seperaat Ely and prosper. The only thing that concerns me is the tariffs on Whisky. As Oscar Wilde once said: ‘work is the curse of the drinking classes’
  10. Michael WalkerOctober 7, 2017 at 12:25I found this to be a worryingly accurate analysis which some previous commenters’ responses only underscore rather than repudiate. I would add a couple of further observations, one about the British interpretation of ‘democracy’, and one about the influence of the newspaper media: The UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system enforces and perpetuates a ‘winner takes all’ mentality. Whether this is a cause or a consequence of the adversarial culture that Mr Luyendijk describes, the effect is that the UK in the main elects a series of parliamentary dictatorships in which a group supported by less than half the electorate gets to impose its policies and choices for the period of the government more-or-less unimpeded. This means that the notions of compromise (which as the writer correctly states, has an aura of ‘fudge’ or ‘cop-out’ about it in present-day Britain) and cross-party consensus are fundamentally alien to the vast majority of UK politicians, making them inherently unable to understand the mechanisms that operate in continental European politics. Brexiters frequently accuse the EU of a lack of democracy but it is one, albeit flawed, like all human enterprises. It’s just a democracy where a sizeable minority (like the UK) can’t get its own way if the rest disagree; Brexiters are complaining here about the same thing that they accuse Remainers of – not wanting to respect the result of a democratic vote. Until UK politicians understand that the EU model is based on seeking negotiated agreement between groups with different priorities and ideological inclinations rather than magnifying a small percentage advantage of the largest minority into the unchallengeable ‘will of the people’, they will always be at odds. My second point is that the influence of the right-wing media – on the population, if not yet on the government – is waning. The 2017 general election demonstrated that despite Jeremy Corbyn being portrayed in the tabloids as the next Stalin or Pol Pot, and undermined even by the BBC, Labour was able to significantly improve its position to the point that the Conservatives have had to indulge in precisely the kind of ‘shady backroom dealing’ with the DUP that critics of proportional representation claim is a virtue of FPTP. Neither of my children (19 and 21) read any newspapers or their websites. They are interested in politics but don’t look there for news or opinion; my daughter is adamant that ‘fake news’ is called out and debunked quickly and thoroughly on social media. I hope she’s right. But it does look like the grip of media barons will wither over time so at least one of the UK’s ongoing problems with democracy may be addressed.
    1. Horses and BarrelsOctober 9, 2017 at 16:14While agreeing entirely I would add that for the Tories and their billionaire nondom tax avoiding backers, a rapidly dwindling membership and ageing voter base represents a looming existential crisis. Once the next general election is lost (as seems now almost certain), they will be out of power for a generation, possibly for good. Whatever the original reasons for holding a referendum, Brexit has now afforded the Tories a spurious ‘will of the people’ rationale for a number of profoundly undemocratic measures whose sole purpose is to consolidate power in their hands before damaging effects are too palpable to be denied and the public mood swings against. Brexit is, in other words, a coup.
  11. Neil DavidsonOctober 7, 2017 at 12:38An interesting article that makes worthwhile points, though its central argument – that the leave vote was driven almost solely by English working class and pensioners’ pathologies and actually had nothing to do with Europe – is hardly novel, as advertised, but rather seems to be the position cherished by most of those who were deeply disappointed with the referendum result. Perhaps the novelty is to learn that a European is pleased to see us go? Having lived in South America for years, I do not know whether this does actually come as a surprise to most readers in the UK, but it strikes me as entirely natural. Britain, or at least England, has always been a poor fit in the EU, for the reasons the author mentions and others, and there is no reason to suppose that Europeans are too blind to see this. Foreigners often dislike England once they get to know it, as Orwell also pointed out. English society does grate, and the question is whether we should look in the mirror and try to change, for example by moving away from our pathological competitiveness (which does not even make us good at football) towards something more cooperative and humane. I think not. First, because it is who we are, and I doubt we can change. Second, because continental Europe, with its moderation and intelligence and savoir vivre, frightens me, and even before the recent upsurge of the likes of Front National and AfD I could not believe there was not something awkward stirring under the surface. The political change has obviously been hastened by non-European immigration, but the effort – of which the EU is part – to suppress normal patriotism and rebrand it as right-wing nationalism was pushing things in that direction anyway. Human nature cannot be suppressed indefinitely. I keep finding an image rising in my mind from a book I read as a child, which I identify with the EU: Professor Branestawm’s non-spilling mug, which worked as advertised, thanks to its enormous incurving lip, but which was also impossible to drink from. The result of these methods is that you end up going mad with thirst and smashing the mug. Add to this the fact that no-one has yet apologised for the euro, and indeed Juncker continues to trumpet it as a colossal achievement, when it (or the political and economic fantasies required to create it) has produced an entire lost generation in southern Europe; and that Juncker is now working hard for a European army which can never be used, since people who are not prepared to sacrifice wealth for each other are not going to sacrifice blood; and on the whole I think the English tradition of eschewing consensus and getting shitfaced on cheap booze before writing moronic articles for the popular press is preferable, as there is just a chance that some truth will come out and fantasies be exploded. The euro: imagine Britain launching a new currency and calling it the “brit”, or a new newspaper being titled “The Briton” or “The Englishman” (on the model of The European, which curiously had the same title as a fascist magazine of the 1950s), and you will see Europe for what it is: an ersatz nationalist project aimed at creating a superpower without cost, indeed while further enriching ourselves. But there is no such thing as a free lunch, and instead it has become a machine for generating nationalisms, or a blanket of fantasy under which they fester, and on balance and despite its manifold benefits – say by a margin of 52 to 48 – we are better off out.
    1. AndreaOctober 8, 2017 at 23:11Take it from a southern-european: it was not the Euro that caused trouble down there, it was the companies and small-minded entrepreneurs that a) sought more and more excuses to not pay taxes, and b) sought more and more ways of not employing people long-term, or not paying them decent enough wages, thus creating a perpetual state of insecurity, from which many of my fellow citizens – myself included – fled. After five years in England, having much contributed to its development and GDP, I am getting ready to leave, not because I think the UK will not weather brexit reasonably, but because the air around here started to smell badly.
    2. Gerry Q.October 10, 2017 at 20:31In referring to the EU as ‘a machine for generating nationalisms’ you’re overlooking the fact that quite a few of the nation states are very young: Germany and Italy have existed in something akin to their current form for about 150 years; others for even shorter periods. Most of the larger states are themselves under pressure from regional and ethnic secessionists. Catalonia is a case in point. It is equally arguable that many nation states have, with varying degrees of coercion, suppressed their own regional and ethnic groups and that the EU, by creating a level of governance, a voice of authority and a court of justice above the nation state, has in fact supported and encouraged such groups to express their identity against the nation state. It seems clear that whatever authority is in place for any large group of people, some will wish to duck that authority. If the EU had never existed, Catalonia would still want to break from Spain; many Scots from the UK; many northern Italians from Italy; and if Germany were not a Federation, the Bavarians would almost certainly want to have some special arrangement for their Freistaat rather than submit to Prussian hegemony. Pretty much every country in Europe has internal tensions and secessionists of one sort or another. The EU is not to blame for these, but it gets blamed for a lot of things for which it is not actually responsible. Scurrilous politicians use it to deflect blame from themselves when they enact policies entirely of their own making. Scurrilous activists use it as a whipping boy for all their complaints. It is such a convenient target, especially for populists and nationalists: we are the victims – it’s all the fault of the EU (check Poland, Hungary, UK). Tha nation states evolved from the regional and city states that preceded them, mostly for one very good reason: the ability of the larger entities to mobilise huge resources and enrich and protect their citizens. It’s essentially about power. The evolution of human organisation from wandering groups of 150 hunter gatherers to the vast nation states of today is simply not going to stop. The EU is a manifestation of that process. In a world that is rapidly moving to being dominated by four major blocs (the USA, the EU, China, India) by mid-century, Britain’s unwillingness to participate in the EU is severing it from power. That cannot and therefore will not be to its advantage.
  12. HSK in SpainOctober 7, 2017 at 12:44Brilliant and it is so important for people to see how they look to other people rather than continue to believe they are what their imagination tells them. I hate the class system in the UK, I left the country partly due to that as a working-class female who just happens to be cleverer than the average male from a public school is something the City of London failed to comprehend. I have never been able to explain to other nationalities why the Uk keeps the system, feeds the system makes it stronger whilst at the same time denies it exists. The rest of Europe, in fact, wherever I have worked are moving to a merit-based society. If you can do the job have been properly qualified have experience then you get interviewed, not rejected because your parents didn’t send you to a private school. Yes the UK should not be a member of the EU club and no-one else understands what the UK is, it makes no sense once you have the chance to look at the society from a distance.
  13. Alan M.October 7, 2017 at 13:18The article tells us much more about Mynheer Joris and his personal political views than it does about England. It is the view of a patronising Guardianista Dutchman, not of the ‘Dutchman in the street’.
    1. Bert RielOctober 8, 2017 at 18:49Alan M, wake up; or if you like, im a Dutchman in the street; Joris is right, your country is lovely, your people polite and your politics owned by some rich white blokes.
      1. Giannis L.October 11, 2017 at 14:42How is it any different in the rest of the EU?
  14. Julian de PaulaOctober 7, 2017 at 13:53Europeans come to live in London in large numbers to enjoy the diversity of London. It is hard to visualise the allure of London changing in future generations, whether the UK is inside the EU project or an external partner to the EU project. Having grown up before the UK joined the project, my family and friends travelled all around Europe and the Iron Curtain countries from pre-teen age onwards. The allure of the differences in attitude and culture around the continent were just as strong for me then as UK youth as London is now for EU youth. European political and philosophical thinkers like Ulrich Beck ‘German Europe’ 2012, 2013 English have seen a euro crisis tearing Europe apart, as the basic rules of European democracy have been subverted or turned into their opposite, bypassing parliaments, governments and EU institutions. He argues that multilateralism is turning into unilateralism, equality into hegemony, sovereignty into dependency ad recognition into disrespect for the dignity of other nations. He see even France, which has long dominated European integration, having to submit to Berlin’s strictures now that it too must fear for its international credit rating.. He argues that the Europe we now have will not be able to survive in the risk laden storms of the globalized world. The EU has to be more than a grim marriage sustained by the fear of the chaos that would be caused by its breakdown. It has, he argues, to be constructed on something more positive : a vision of rebuilding Europe bottom up, creating a Europe of the citizen. There is no better way to invigorate Europe than through the coming together of ordinary Europeans acting on their own behalf. No one likes change and it is resisted, until the need for change is internalised. We all, both UK and EU citizens, have a great opportunity now to construct a more positive vision of the relationships between independent sovereign nations and the citizens in those nations. One size has never fitted all people. Power has always created inequality and redistribution has always been the goal of philosophers for developed nations. The one great result of globalisation is that increasing numbers of citizens around the globe are coming out of poverty. How ever we seek to change social, political and environmental and economic outcomes we should not seek to change this outcome or the appreciation of diversity in London and Europe. Do we simply want strong economies with strong social safety nets and redistribution for citizens and regions?
  15. Peter RichardsOctober 7, 2017 at 14:10I strongly suspect that ‘Guardianista Dutchman’ carries about no meaning whatsoever. Except maybe a) person who reads a certain publication, and whom I am therefore prepared to dismiss with the generalisation of being akin to South American revolutionaries of another era, and b) modification of the same as being foreign. Roll on the dialogue. This is pretty much why the English were banned from European football, as a strange harbinger of their now being made unwelcome as part of Europe itself.
  16. Gregory O.October 7, 2017 at 14:27And it is interesting, Alan M, that your contribution consIsts of so many ad hominem comments rather than joined up thinking. He’s got a point. We need to get out of the eu to expose the poor thinking so prevalent in the UK. Thanks for helping to illustrate it!
  17. Yorick WilksOctober 7, 2017 at 14:31CORRECTED: There is much self- contradiction in this article, and one obvious example would be the claim that the British do not understand compromise, although the EU is a rule- driven organization and cannot possibly accommodate the UK in any way. Something odd there. Similarly, he writes of the horror of the British bringing up national interests, unlike our cooperative partners, when we all know German national interests have brought Greece to its needs, whether or not they were ever mentioned. He us not a perceptive or insightful commentator.
  18. Stephen O’NeillOctober 7, 2017 at 14:41With a few substitutions this article could easily reflect the situation in the United States. Isolationism and class warfare are just as evident here as in Britain. Xenophobic reactions to foreigners, the “other”, is equally wide-spread throughout areas of this country. Unreasonable fear that other countries are taking advantage of us is reflected in the “Make America Great Again” nonsense spouted by leading politicians. Unlike some who comment here, I see Joris’s article as a realistic reflection of a culture in disarray and decline (in both the U.S. and Britain) and badly in need of a time of introspection. The world would do well to isolate us until we have regained a measure of rationality and maturity.
  19. StuartOctober 7, 2017 at 14:45Painful to read, but as an English man a lot of this rings true. Still, was there really the need for this to be headlined ‘how I learnt to loathe England’? (not necessarily by the writer, I realise) Anyone who loathes an entire country or people is not worth listening to.
  20. Brian D.October 7, 2017 at 15:01I largely agree with Joris. The level of English and Welsh xenophobia and ignorance about the EU is embarrassing, but hardly surprising given the right wing cultural hegemony in Britain which constantly feeds the mythology of our glorious past and future prospects of prosperity and freedom (as Britain supposedly reboots its ties with the US and other former colonies). The truth is that the British establishment cannot bear to give up any power (and privilege) that they see as an inalienable right, least of all to Europeans. The only encouragement for the future is that most of those under 40 can already see the folly of Brexit and will eventually help to lead us back into Europe. Perhpas Joris can then enjoy a return visit to a more enlightened and sober country.
  21. Alan M.October 7, 2017 at 16:17Gregory, what ‘poor thinking so prevalent in the UK’ will be exposed after we leave the EU which is not obvious now to anyone who cares to look? I’m not English and I thoroughly agree with Mr Luyendijk’s views on the English Education and class systems. They’ve been harming us since Victorian times. Entire forests have been chopped down to provide the paper for the innumerable scholarly books and articles on the subject but nothing seems to have changed. I doubt if anything will in my lifetime. My comments were deliberately ‘ad hominem’. I was playing the man not the ball because it was the man who wrote the article. Our friend Joris was not telling us anything that we didn’t already know about the UK. His article was written after ‘we sailed from Harwich’. “We had arrived as fellow Europeans”, but then again “My wife and I are both Dutch and we want our children to grow roots in the country where we came of age”. His purported ‘Europeanism’ didn’t last longer than his children reaching school age before he reverted to being a Dutchman returning home to the good old Nederlands, treating the population of the UK to a good mouthful or two about how he didn’t like them and their way of life very much, but ta for the job, time to move on.
  22. GeorgyOctober 7, 2017 at 16:49Having lived in NL and the UK for many years and having only recently moved back home, I think you’ll return to NL and it will be like the veil has been lifted. You’ll see your society for what it is really like and you’ll be one unhappy person. You’ll tell this story to your Dutch friends and they will nod with self satisfied agreement. You’ll take your children to watch the racist Zwarte Piet each Christmas and say “oh it is not wrong, it is just tradition.” You’ll make remarks like “I am not racist, but Morrocans are thieves” and you’ll live in your anti-septic society. But you’ll not feel good. You’ll resist your calvisist jealousy of people who have more than you and you’ll not put your washing out on the line on a Sunday, because if you do your neighbours will complain. It will all feel a little bit dull and smug. Then you’ll remember why you liked the Smiths… because you orderly, dull society does not produce anything interesting or challenging.
    1. Anton JieSamFoekOctober 9, 2017 at 08:28If George Orwell would have been around, he would have written this comment Georgy. Compliments.
    2. UtterNutterOctober 10, 2017 at 20:07Have you really lived in the NL for many years? For than you must know that Zwarte Piet is at Sinterklaas, a children feast on the 5th of December. and not on christmas The discussion about Zwarte Piet is hilarous and unique in this world, Zwarte Sinterklaas met Witte Piet, perfect. Morrocans are not thieves, they are unemployed and deserve a better chance, something Dutch need to improve. Neighbours complaining about washing on a line on Sundays? Where have you lived, Spakenburg? All countries have areas were things are a bit odd. Yes the Smiths and much more music coming from the UK is fantastic, but the Dutch have got their (international) acclaim too. Orderly dull society? I wonder why airplanes are full of limeys for a party in Amsterdam every weekend. As in so many times I quote my grandmother’s words “think before you speak”
      1. GeorgyOctober 11, 2017 at 18:10UtterNutter, if you know the country so well, you’ll know that even the Dutch regard Amsterdam as an oasis in a cultural desert. As for your comments about Zwarte Piet… well I’ll leave them with you, which is where they belong and should stay.
        1. UtterNutterOctober 11, 2017 at 19:27Thank you for your reply Georgy, appreciated. No, Amsterdam is not the only oasis in NL, think of Rotterdam, Maastricht, Eindhoven, Groningen and even Den Haag. You should have explored this while living there. Cultural desert? I beg to differ, the Dutch are fanatic about culture, music and expositions. As to the Zwarte Piet discussion, let’s agree on this, let’s call the whole thing off, it’s only really helping commerce while scaring and making children nervous. I would like to add that I sincerely hope that Brexit will not let the (poor) people suffer in the UK, even if they voted pro-Brexit and that constructive leadership will prevent that from happening. Though my hopes were a bit low when May today said that there is no guarantee for a woman living in the UK for 31 years as an EU citizen that she may stay. Shame on May, hard Brexit. Perhaps the reason why Trump is coming to the UK early next year. UK the next USA state?
  23. Randy F McDonaldOctober 7, 2017 at 17:28The commenters here who are proving the author’s points about ignorant xenophobia are almost enough to make you laugh. Almost.
    1. jimmymackOctober 7, 2017 at 20:16Others might say the xenophobe is man who ‘loathes’ the country good enough to welcome him and his family for the past years and who now wishes his children ‘to grow roots in the country where [he] came of age’.
  24. Dirk JansenOctober 7, 2017 at 19:38I can understand his feelings, but doubt if he really hates England. He may think he does, but the frustration of anybody from Holland, towards what England has become, is understandable. My family and I spend twelve years in Holland, after three, enjoyable years in Germany and still consider Holland our second home, more than thirty years, after we left. Our son was educated, in very good schools, which were multi-national, but not fee-paying, and the top three students in their final primary school, state examination, were an American an Israeli and ours. This enabled him, to get a place in a very, if not the most, sought-after secondary school, in Amsterdam. There were no old-family ties, I was not a socialising political type, and we lived very modestly. We had blended in, made possible by our neighbours and helped, by having a tiny park nearby, where the children played together, irrespective of race, or status of their parents. One thing that differentiates the Dutch from other nationalities is the attitude towards ostentatiousness. It is frowned upon in ways that are quite the opposite to what I saw in England, during my few years there. Affluent neighbours are not that easy to pick out, as they might drive ancient bangers, but have a small place in Puerto Banus, or wherever. If you did not need to know this, they did not tell you. This might explain their feelings towards Brexit. The EU has been a very safe and a reliable haven for their economic and social development and they, caring for England, as they, genuinely, do, would prefer that their friends might not be influenced by powerful cabals in the U.K., or the influences of foreign media magnates.
  25. David MOctober 7, 2017 at 20:46Much of what you say is accurate. Our press has failed this nation and needs serious reform and proper regulation. I know the word regulation strikes into the hearts of good journalists – I am a journalist, and I can see that perspective. But given how badly large parts of our media fail us on a daily basis and the hate a bile parts of it throw at minorities, something has to give. On the other hand, I cannot place the blame all on the press. People have a responsibility to educate themselves. In 2017, the resources to do so are widely and freely available. I come from a background of poverty. Born and brought up in one of the most deprived and crime ridden boroughs of London. Yet I don’t swallow everything the tabloids and right-wing “quality” papers give me. I don’t hate and distrust the EU or minorities or anything else. Because I’m not lazy. I don’t sit and wait to be spoonfed my views, as many of my compatriots seem to. I hope and plan to leave the UK when I have achieved a masters degree in 2019. I am lucky in that I am able to get an Irish – EU – passport and so will continue to benefit from all the great aspects of being an EU citizen. I just feel sorry for all those who don’t have that option who are being stripped of their EU citizenship on the basis of a referendum campaign full of lies and bankrolled by the worst members of our society. As I’ve always said, and continue to believe: I’d rather live in Londonistan than Little England.
  26. FLastOctober 7, 2017 at 20:46Dear Joris Luyendijk As a half Dutch/half British person, there’s so much to unpack in this article. My first impression of your article is that it is extremely judgemental and deeply unfair to the millions and millions of those who voted to Remain, who love the EU and all the opportunities it offers (I have three children, one of whom was on the Erasmus programme in Rotterdam, and now studies at the VU in Amsterdam, and another who has worked in Berlin and is now in London). All three voted to Remain and have never known a world where freedom of movement across Europe (including England) wasn’t possible. Every time the awful Brexiters say “Britain voted to Leave”, like a brainwashing mantra, I shout back that “Britain also voted to remain”. That the nearly half of the voters (and let’s not delude ourselves that those voters represent the whole of the UK) are totally disenfranchised and unrecognised has caused the whole country to become more divided than it has been in centuries, and the while the Brexiteers think that they have ‘won’, when isolationist little England starts to look like Bangladesh, the Remainers will vent their suppressed anger (especially the youth who had no voice but whose future has been stolen from them). I too wonder how “a handful of billionaires can poison the national conversation with disinformation”, but then many Brits are in awe of America and that’s their style – it’s not called propaganda anymore, it’s called marketing and PR, and in the name of winning and profiteering, it has become totally acceptable to use misinformation to ‘sell’ something (either a product or an idea) in the UK, at least among the rightwing. In their eyes, truth and honesty have nothing to do with it. I particularly liked and agreed with your comment “Neither party dares to speak the truth to millions of people who have voted for a have your cake and eat it option that was never on the menu”. What baffles me most, are not the millions of deluded people who have nothing more to lose either way (Leave or Remain), but those billionaires themselves. What’s in it for the likes of that spine-chilling creep Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson? Are they really still living in 18th century when Britain was an empire? As for Rupert Murdoch, well that’s simple, he wants to take over the media entirely and destroy the single public service that still functions well – the BBC – and as Mandelson (?I think it was him) said, the EU is too strong to take on, but individual countries? Well, that’ll be a piece of cake. So much for sovereignty, the British will be ruled by an American/Australian billionaire! Having said all that, let’s not forget that the British press has been hostile to the EU from the beginning. Quite frankly the British should have been kicked out decades ago, they have been a thorn in the side of the idea of European unity all along. Isn’t it ironic that it was the British who pushed hardest for European expansionism in order to weaken and dilute the influence of a powerful Germany and France? Whereas other European capitals proudly wave the gold and blue star flag, the British don’t. Like the Americans, the Brexiteers aren’t used to compromising with anyone and genuinely do seem to have a gigantic sense of entitlement (as you mentioned, they can’t even negotiate and compromise with each other in the Tory party) The other things you mention, like the education system, have nothing to do with the EU and are not a temporary aberration that the Brits need to get over. The public (private) school system has existed for hundreds of years and inequality in education has long been a political battle in the UK and will probably continue that way. As history shows, the truth will become apparent and England will suffer (and already is). I also I had never given my identity much thought, as being British and Dutch was basically the same thing to me. Never in my life did I ever feel that one side would betray the other or that I might have to choose (it’s a bit like a child must feel when it’s parents divorce and they have to choose which parent to live with). The current nationalistic, xenophobic sentiment across the West is not only dangerous, but futile, because the number of people like us who have travelled, intermixed and seen the world as home is huge, and hard as they try, the nationalists won’t be able to create their fascist views of a ‘pure nation’ in this day and age. Don’t give up on us, and certainly don’t give up on the British youth! It will eventually become too apparent that we really, really are entwined, not just in terms of trade and treaties, but in terms of the millions of people just like me, who are not just British or just Dutch, but are both, and always will be!
    1. SempliniOctober 8, 2017 at 06:52Completely agree with you ‘FLast”, as someone who has dual nationality UK/US but also with Italian and Belgian heritage. I have been completely horrified by what has happened and never believed it was possible. I live in the constituency of Liam Fox who seems to be part of the very worrying club behind the scenes influencing/manipulating both the US elections and UK referendums using the shady dealings of Cambridge Analytica. I find it truly horrifying how people were so played by the Murdoch press and how jokers like Farage, Johnson and Rees-Mogg who play politics like they’re still schoolboys at Eton can spout lies about the NHS just to manipulate the public and get away with still doing it. What about our children’s future? It is because these same politicians are completely protected from any effects on the economy by their wealth. My own children at 14 & 17 were better informed and better researched than a lot of those who voted. Unfortunately you can’t just read the sound bites in the Mail and the Sun and think it’s going to inform you. I remember the vote in 1975 to join and over the intervening 42 years have loved what it has given us enriching our country and feel completely European and can’t believe that we have voted to return to the 1970’s. Unfortunately I believed in democracy but I hadn’t realised that 52% believed the lies being peddled but that they believed we could just opt out of the regulations and still trade with the EU but how profoundly those same regulations have enhanced and protected us. How can we as 52% of a country be so naive to think we can have our cake and eat it? The trouble is as we did not suffer the way Europe suffered during and after WW2 we have not valued the impact that the EU has given us on peace and unity. Unfortunately the baby boomers here, who weren’t alive in the war think they know better. We will all just have to find out the hard way what we have given away and how manipulated we’ve been by a very small group of mostly Eton educated and billionaires club, who have a huge hidden agenda.
      1. Jack PontingNovember 8, 2017 at 07:12http://www.google.com
  27. FLastOctober 7, 2017 at 20:58Dear Joris Luyendijk As a half Dutch/half British person, there’s so much to unpack in this article. My first impression of your article is that it is extremely judgemental and deeply unfair to the millions and millions of those who voted to Remain, who love the EU and all the opportunities it offers (I have three children, one of whom was on the Erasmus programme in Rotterdam, and now studies at the VU in Amsterdam, and another who has worked in Berlin and is now in London). All three voted to Remain and have never known a world where freedom of movement across Europe (including England) wasn’t possible. Every time the awful Brexiters say “Britain voted to Leave”, like a brainwashing mantra, I shout back that “Britain also voted to remain”. That the nearly half of the voters (let’s not delude ourselves that those voters represent the whole of the UK) are totally disenfranchised and unrecognised has caused the whole country to become more divided than it has been in centuries and while the Brexiteers think that they have ‘won’, when isolationist little England starts to look like Bangladesh, the Remainers will vent their suppressed anger (especially the youth who had no voice but whose future has been stolen from them). I too wonder how “a handful of billionaires can poison the national conversation with disinformation”, but then many Brits are in awe of America and have learned that’s their style – it’s not called propaganda anymore, it’s called marketing and PR. In the name of winning and profiteering, it has become totally acceptable to use misinformation to ‘sell’ something (either a product or an idea) in the UK, at least among the rightwing. In their eyes, truth and honesty have nothing to do with it. I particularly liked and agreed with your comment “Neither party dares to speak the truth to millions of people who have voted for a have your cake and eat it option that was never on the menu”. What baffles me most, are not the millions of deluded people who have nothing more to lose either way (Leave or Remain), but those billionaires themselves. What’s in it for the likes of that spine-chilling creep Jacob Rees-Mogg or Boris Johnson? Are they really still living in 18th century when Britain was an empire? As for Rupert Murdoch, well that’s simple, he wants to take over the media entirely and destroy the single public service that still functions well – the BBC – and as Mandelson (?I think it was him) said, the EU is too strong to take on, but individual countries? Well, that’ll be easy! So much for sovereignty, the British will be ruled by an American/Australian billionaire! Having said all that, let’s not forget that the British press has been hostile to the EU from the beginning. Quite frankly the British should have been kicked out decades ago, they have been a thorn in the side of the idea of European unity all along. Isn’t it ironic that it was the British who pushed hardest for European expansionism in order to weaken and dilute the influence of a powerful Germany and France? Like the Americans, the Brexiteers aren’t used to compromising with anyone and genuinely do seem to have a gigantic sense of entitlement (as you mentioned, they can’t even negotiate and compromise with each other in the Tory party) The other things you mention, like the education system, have nothing to do with the EU and are not a temporary aberration that the Brits need to get over. The public (private) school system has existed for hundreds of years and inequality in education has long been a political battle in the UK and will probably continue that way. I also I had never given my identity much thought, as being British and Dutch was basically the same thing to me. Never in my life did I ever feel that one side would betray the other or that I might have to choose (like a child when it’s parents divorce and they have to choose which parent to live with). The current nationalistic, xenophobic sentiment across the West is not only dangerous, but futile, because the number of people like us who have travelled, intermixed and seen the world as home is huge. Hard as they try, the nationalists won’t be able to create their fascist views of a ‘pure nation’ in this day and age. Don’t give up on us, and certainly don’t give up on the British youth! It will eventually become too apparent that we really, really are entwined, not just in terms of trade and treaties, but in terms of the millions of people just like me, who are not just British or just Dutch, but are both, and always will be!
  28. Chris WhitesideOctober 7, 2017 at 21:30I voted Remain and would probably have agreed with much of this had it not been for the hatred of England which oozes from every sentence, from the title “How I learned to loathe England” onwards. The author wrote an even more egregious article in the Guardian during the referendum campaign using language like “we must threaten to hit the English as hard as we can” and “we would strangle or crush the English.” (Where in the article above he admits that he knows nothing about the Scots, Welsh, or Northern Irish, his January 2016 Guardian article patronised them as lackeys of England.) I can honestly say that at no point during the referendum campaign was I as close to voting “leave” as just after reading Joris Luyendijk’s Guardian article. Had the ideas in this piece been expressed in a less openly contemptuous way some of them might have been worth paying attention to.
    1. Joyce NewtonOctober 9, 2017 at 14:26isn’t there an expression ‘getting a cookie of your own dough”?
      1. VincentOctober 22, 2017 at 15:49Yes, unfortunately peanut butter….
  29. Adrian LOctober 7, 2017 at 22:05Ok, cool. So we have a horrifically class obsessed society, driven by private education; a poisonous, mean-spirited press; and an electoral system and political culture that thrives on division. No argument here. But I tell you one thing Joris, even with all that, Nigel Farage would never get anywhere near 30% in this country. And Wilders makes him look rather tolerant. So don’t give me this nonsensical, panglossian view of European conciliation and harmony. Truth is, I don’t have to look very far in your country, Germany, Italy, France, Denmark etc. etc. to find similar levels of disenfranchised resentment. We aren’t so different – and no, actually, we would be much better off staying together.
  30. NicolaOctober 7, 2017 at 22:13As an onlooker from the Irish Republic, I believe the problem lies in the entire structure of the British education system and not just its elitist nature. Here, we study seven or more subjects for the Leaving Certificate – the final school exams – which leads to a good overall level of general knowledge – whether that person goes on to further education or not. In Britain it seems common to study two or three A levels – which means that many leave school with the basic O level knowledge of a 15 or 16 year old in crucial ‘life’ studies like history or geography – or perhaps not even that. I can honestly say without malice or any intended disrespect that I have been shocked at the lack of basic education of some British people I have met along the way – including a former boyfriend who went to a very fancy London ‘public’ school. This are just my own observations. Perhaps I am wrong! However I strongly believe that education is key – and its absence leads to many, many irreparable problems.
  31. Nigel BurnettOctober 8, 2017 at 01:12Great article, I am sorry you didn’t get to see or live in Scotland or Ireland. I think you would have seen a better side there. But a good article nevertheless.
  32. AllyOctober 8, 2017 at 03:44I am a Remainer and abhor the government’s refusal to seek consensus or even acknowledge the concerns of the 48% who voted Remain, answering instead only to the entrenched ideologies of one sector of the Tory party. At the same time, I feel that the single market has become so large and powerful that no country in Europe can afford to be outside it. Even countries like Norway and Switzerland, who are not EU members, pay a large fee and have to accept a great number of EU rules (including free movement of workers) for access to the single market, although they have no say in deciding the rules. The benefits of the single market (and for poorer countries, EU redistribution policies) are enticing enough for nearly every country in Europe to join the EU and accept the full one-size-fits-all package, whether or not there is strong domestic opposition against certain EU rules. This stokes more extremist nationalist movements. I really think the EU needs to be more flexible, particularly in the free movement of workers rules. Supranationalism is relatively new in the long history of Europe and people will not let go of their nationalistic tendencies so quickly. The EU needs to slow down and reform from within and Britain should be helping to drive that, not caving in to its own nationalists.
  33. SantosOctober 8, 2017 at 05:49That was definitely blunt, but it should be obvious to everyone by now that the english are delusional about their place in the world. It’s mind-blowing how so many people never asked themselves basic questions such as: why oh why are we the only ones, among 28 (big, small, poor, rich, ultra rich), that can’t shut up about the UE? Do I actually believe the other 27 are a bunch of idiots and I’m a genius? Or: if the Norway and Switzerland deal is our best case scenario, are we voting leave to, in the very next minute, ask to come back in, the only major difference being we lose all our influence? How does this make any sense? It’s been years since I’ve started wishing for a Brexit because as a citizen of one of the other members of the UE I actually want it to develop and succeed (shocking!), instead of arguing about bananas. Many millions of people dream about their countries being part of UE, while in the UK the national hobby is denigrating it and bragging about the equally delusional “special relationship”, while reaping all the benefits the membership generates. It’s insulting. I wish that the english felt the same way as the rest, but for decades it’s been clear this is not the case, so no point in keeping up the charade. Hopefully the remain voters are going to be heard and the UK will retain access to the single market, but as things stand (irrealistic expectations) that seems years away from happening.
  34. NickOctober 8, 2017 at 09:59Excellent article overall, but you showed that you too can be bamboozled by propaganda when you referred to the “demonised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn”. Corbyn has had an easier ride than any party leader I can remember. From day one his supporters have characterised unedited video and verbatim quotes as smears, and incredibly people like you have fallen for it. Corbyn has a long and consistent history of being on the wrong side of every argument, always on the side of violence and brutality whether it be Northern Ireland, South Africa or Israel/Palestine.
  35. YaBastaOctober 8, 2017 at 11:40″one plus one equals three” The EU’s accounting procedures in a nutshell. And sometimes, Winston, it can even equal four. Seriously though, this obsession with the British tabloids reveals a great deal. On the continent, the EU is used to uncritical cheerleading from a press that should be holding it to account. The slant of a given publication can range from left of right of left of centre to right of left of right of left of centre, but whatever else you question, don’t question the great and glorious EU – that’s a given. And certainly don’t mention the destruction the EU has wreaked on Greece, condemning a generation to poverty and unemployment, to the extent that Greek charities that formerly helped the starving in Africa are now having to do so at home. And this, it seems, is the only climate in which the EU can operate – the British media, where only *some* publications are pro-EU, is too hostile for them.
  36. MaartenOctober 8, 2017 at 13:37The UK is the only nation in europe that didn’t yet process mentally the loss of their empire. As a matter of fact, they think they’ve still got it. That’s where their overly arrogant attitude towards Europe comes from. Like you rightly say in your last paragraph, the UK needs time on their own, to see what their real position in the world nowadays is. Very hard times ahead for the english psyche, because obviously they will first blame their hardship on the EU before understanding it’s not the EU that is pushing them down, but it’s simply due to their modest size that the country will get completely crushed between US, EU, Japan, China and probably the other BRICs as well.
  37. HOctober 8, 2017 at 13:51This coming from someone whose country was voted most inhospitable to expats in all of Europe just a few years ago, a country whose PM told foreigners to ‘pleur op’ (sod off) and which according to a report in 2015 violates relatively more children’s rights than almost any nation in the world. Give me a break!
  38. discwritesOctober 8, 2017 at 16:36I have been a loyal reader of Mr. Luyendijk for years, however I feel this piece disheartening. I am also a foreigner – an Italian in the Netherlands. I, too, have learnt to loathe my host country for its people´s rudeness, the paltry education and healthcare systems, the Calvinist hypocrisy, the lack of social ties and cuisine, the soullessness of the new wijken (I live in Almere), the monotonous newspapers, the brain-washing that led to the housing bubble, the mindless pension system, the hypocrisy around tax dodging, the anti-Catholicism, the snarky remarks against the lazy Greek and Italian. I too, once thought that the Dutch were my “cousins”, then had to understand the hard way that I was just another foreigner. Yours is not an acute analysis of the UK: it is cultural shock that every migrant will recognize. We all feel “disappointed, hurt and immensely worried” when we are away from home and are forced to follow other people´s rules. But only few of us have the resources to fly back home and continue life there, while throwing a tantrum on the newpapers. I also find it unbelievably hypocritical for someone who grew up in het Gooi to talk about equal opportunities and fair play. There is no such thing as “we Europeans”. We Europeans have been hating each other since Roman times. Let us take the EU out of its misery and go back to national borders.
  39. Richard EvansOctober 8, 2017 at 17:26″We did not leave because of Brexit. My wife and I are both Dutch and we want our children to grow roots in the country where we came of age” So you were going anyway, the rest of the article is at best ignorant and at worst xenophobia against the country that accepted you. As for the Netherlands 20 out of 150 seats were won by the PVV party, a party that many in the UK view as racist, so don’t talk about the mote in our eye when you’ve a near two dozen of beams in yours
  40. Barry ReidOctober 8, 2017 at 18:02For me one of the main premises of this article is utterly wrong. The UK doesn’t have a problem with it’s adversarial/competitive culture, rather with a developing a blame culture. The EU and Europeans have been a straw man for at least 30 years in our politics with the right blaming them for our country’s manifest failings. The irony is that after joining our in the 70s an economy serious trouble began to improve markedly. It will be interesting to see how we fare outside and, more interesting to see who the right will blame once Britain is out of Europe. Except, of course, it will still be ‘Europe’ as all our ills will be down to those shady eurocrats determined to punish us for leaving.
  41. Lucy Finn-SmithOctober 8, 2017 at 19:05My first vote was the referendum to join the Common Market as it was called then. I was very proud to vote yes. It may be flawed system but we should work to fix it , not leave. Ireland was a third world country in the 1960s ( thats where I grew up ) . Joining Europe brought prosperity, pride and unbelievable progress to Ireland. I agree that billionaires are controlling the tabloids ( pure propaganda ) , same thing is happening in USA ( see Bannon , the Mercers , Koch brothers , NRA ) How do we counter it ? That will be the challenge going forward, because the propaganda is causing division and hostility ( as intended )
  42. ValOctober 8, 2017 at 19:41I am not dutch. But I am European living 12 years in the UK and have to say the article is spot on. Brexit is UK problem. More specifically problem of UK education and media. Faith schools seriously guys in 21st century? Also it is English nationalist problem: “The problem with the English: England doesn’t want to be just another member of a team” by Prof. Nicholas Boyle
  43. Wilson ClaireOctober 9, 2017 at 02:14Underlying Joris’ article is a sense that in middle England you’re either English or foreign. Ergo, outside London it isn’t possible to be both & hope to progress socially & politically. Let me tell you that as an “ethnic minority” (an English media & establishment invention which no other nation uses) Joris isn’t just right but that being mixed English + some other ethnicity could be socially & politically worse than being just a plain WOG. If you think you can be bi-ethnic & accepted socially & politically, try telling people you are both & stand in the shires for election to your local council or to Parliament- or even just getting elected to your local village gardening committee beyond London. Now, there are many, many other countries where the same issue arises (try for example being Pakistani & Indian); but the problem for Britons is that none of them continue to rely on European skills & funding+ as much as the UK. UK Higher Education is a principal example of this. A fair deal requires both sides to need each other; but the unequal negotiating positions of the UK & EU are plain for anyone to see.
  44. wvisserOctober 9, 2017 at 09:31Interesting discussion. But I am surprised the author is not aware Dutch university admission is rapidly moving towards a competition system. There is no general ‘lottery admission’ anymore. See https://www.metronieuws.nl/in-het-nieuws/het-gesprek/2017/05/universiteiten-overtreden-wet-met-nieuwe-toelating (Dutch). The well known ‘infamous’ lottery system for medicine studies does no longer exist. Instead, the universities select new students based on tests, motivation letters etc.
  45. PeterOctober 9, 2017 at 09:49UK born and at the age of 72 I am utterly ashamed of my nationality. Brexit was the worst thing to happen to the UK since WW2 The UK is like an out of control tanker with no competent individual at the controls and with the charts shown to be false, I despair for my grandchildrens future.
  46. JosephineOctober 9, 2017 at 09:54This diatribe isn’t making a Dutch vs English case, it’s the same Anywhere/Somewhere social cleavage division being discussed internally in the UK and reflects the growing gap and discontent between the winners and losers in new-liberalism and free trade. Much as I hate t9 sa6 it, the author will rapidly find the divide at home – if he wanders outside his metropolitan middle class echo chamber. As t9 the remarks regarding the UK court and political systems, their origins far precede the author’s arrival in the UK and advantages and disadvantages between the majoritarian/communitarian political systems and common/civil law systems are far more involved and nuanced than he suggests. The grass is always greener on the other side of the street, and homesickness after a long absence almost universal – but it is as likely you will find it is the world that changed, not your neighbours in England.
  47. darrylxxxOctober 9, 2017 at 11:07Reading many of the responses above it appears that the truth can hurt. I voted Remain, live in Northern Ireland (hooray for my dual passport status – I’m simultaneously IN and OUT of the EU), and recognise much of what the article highlights. As a progressive liberal (I vote Green Party) in what is often portrayed as an illiberal regressive part of these islands, I watch with horror the Little Englander UKIP takeover of the Tory Party. This, in my view, has been set up and egged on by our largely right wing national press, bent of demonising anyone not English or at least toeing the English line on almost any pressing issue. For the first time I can see the possibility of a united Ireland in my lifetime thanks to this madness – I’m 58.
  48. Bob in AmsterdamOctober 9, 2017 at 13:39Well said! This is the most insightful reflection on EU/UK dissonance I’ve ever read. The UK has a right to leave the EU, but why must it make so much noise about it? Mrs May, please, close the door on your way out. And try not to break any of the furniture. Let the EU develop its important project without British interference. Go quickly.
  49. E. DorrOctober 9, 2017 at 14:17As an ex-pat American living in the UK I vehemently disagree with this persons opinion regarding the overall culture of England or its citizens. I agree with some reservations, about the media and government handling of the referendum and the false information put forth during the campaign and I don’t believe that a people should be held to a vote made with inaccurate and false knowledge but to entitle this article with such inflammatory words makes the writer equally guilty of the same offence of over dramatizing. Why would one use such foul terms for an entire culture and people based on actions mostly committed by the ruling body and by those 6 rich white men he blames for the media coverage? Why paint the people with the same brush? There is honest and then there is purposely mean. I am completely against Brexit and see terrible things coming for the UK because of it, as does my British husband and his entire family but why be angry with the people voting when the writer states himself that those voting to leave were purposely left in the dark by those they trusted to give them the vital facts to make such a monumental decision? Maybe I disagree with the rest because I am from the U.S. where we do not have even half of the things that the citizens are offered or maybe its because when my husband and I travelled to Amsterdam and Rotterdam last year we saw nothing but violence and encountered mostly rude and impatient people, not the tourists or those come to Amsterdam to party but the Dutch themselves. Right down to the hotel driver who got out of the shuttle van in the middle of traffic to get into a fist fight and ultimately try to strangle a cab driver only to be pulled off by a cyclist, or the person who walked behind me and tried to shove me into oncoming cycle traffic, or the sidewalk sweeper who drove his sweeper onto the narrow path that we and 6 others were standing with our luggage awaiting the shuttle, refusing to turn off his sweeper though we were trapped in that small space and sweeping sidewalk soot and cigarette butts onto our luggage, feet, and even two small children in strollers, or the walk we were followed all over Rotterdam by scowling men looking as if they were going to mug us, or that the football stadiums there are the only ones I’ve seen in 17 countries that require 30’ moats around the pitches to keep violent fans from rushing the pitch and attacking their own players, or that when we did go see Feyenord and the fans behind us realized that we were American and British began flicking their cigarette ash onto us rather than welcome the fact that two people travelled to their country to support their team. All this and we were only there for three days. Maybe Britain does have a few issues but I never ever been treated poorly here and I honestly have never been treated as badly anywhere as I have in The Netherlands. Its only saving grace was Eindhoven. This man needs to take his own countrys failings into account before he attacks this another one.
  50. H_GANNAWAYOctober 9, 2017 at 14:57I have worked with Dutch nationals quite a few times over the last 13 years, mainly collaborating on EU research programmes around education. Our over-dinner conversations frequently turned to whatever U-turn, slate-wiping or wheel-reinventing England was indulging in and the mud-slinging that invariably followed. Our best solution was always to locate another William and Mary to come over and sort it all out. Next year will be the 330th anniversary so what could be a better time? Just saying…
  51. Jon N.October 9, 2017 at 15:09This is a very perceptive article. However, I do think the author’s summary of the “English” psyche is really about middle class London (and the south east). Northerners ) and Midlanders are far blunter and direct; indeed I think there is more in common with Scotland than with the south; while not as “honest” as the Dutch (who is?) I think he would find things quite different had he lived there. Before writing any summaries of “England”, I think foreign journalists should ask themselves this question: “I am assuming, incorrectly, that London is representative of the whole country?” I’m off to write an article about how liberal, relaxed, stylish, multicultural and hedonistic all the Dutch are are on the basis of a few visits to Amsterdam.
  52. Richard DAWSONOctober 9, 2017 at 18:05Amateur psychiatrists analysing ‘national characteristics’ risk swimming in fetid water. Did the British confront Nazism due to their adversarial nature and did the Dutch collaborate with the Nazis due to their cooperative nature? Please leave this analysis well alone. It was Simon Jenkins, who writes for the Guardian, but may not be a Guardianista, who described the EU ( and I stress EU ) as a ‘smug, dysfunctional, cartelised oligarchy’. Now it may be that some British wish to leave the EU for this very reason and because they see no hope of improvements.
    1. GegenbeisoielOctober 11, 2017 at 21:32Simple answer: Corbyn rated the EU as, at best, 7/10, which was considered by the media lukewarm support. What they ignored is that the UK rates a 2/10 or , at best, a 3/10 .
  53. Richard CalhounOctober 9, 2017 at 20:11An interesting article, but you would think the UK was the only country that had a class system. However a more serious note Mr Joris Luyendijk please note the UK has no extremist parties like you have in mainland EU, your own Freedom Party in Holland, Afd in Germany, never mind the others in Italy, Spain & Greece. Your political parties form endless coalitions and you wonder why you have extremism taking major positions in your parliaments. The difference between Mainland EU and the UK is that we believe in freedom of the individual and sadly Europe embraces the Primacy of the State Good luck with that Joris Luyendijk, I think you will find there is a cost to your lack of democracy in Europe As for the UK, we will come out of the EU, we will continue with our democracy, we will seek trade across the globe and we will succeed
  54. Dave HunterOctober 9, 2017 at 20:13I sympathise with Joris. I was born in Scotland when the Queen came to the throne. I remember voting for the EEC in the seventies and I voted to remain this time round. In 1976 I took advantage of the EEC and moved to Darmstadt near Frankfurt to work at the European Space Agency followed by times in Frankfurt, Munich, and Amsterdam. I spent time in Berlin and Munich when I worked for BWM Rolls Royce. I went back to Frankfurt in 2000 and after moving to Rendsburg on the Kiel canal. I enjoyed my time in Europe and still have Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Greece still to visit. I would also like to take my wife on the Grand Tour but I dare say I will not be going back after this debacle the UK now finds itself in. Since the referendum my next door neighbour in England told me to F*** Off back to Scotland along with some other fine English words of encouragement. My first vote at 18 was for the SNP and I now see my future back in Scotland fighting for independence and the right to remain in the EU. I am fed up with the little Englander xenophobic attitude now prevalent in the southern UK. It would appear that England has been taken over by the Tory-Kipper numpties who know nothing and preach nothing. Joris was right they crawled out from every corner to some vote for the first time believing the Spiv Farage along with Bojo and the rest of the Leavers. We now have a government which has reneged on its duty of care for its citizens. The leavers will get their wish to be poorer. They will also get a no-fly zone as the UK leaves the ECAA (must recognise ECJ to be member) and ends up with hardly any permissions to fly anywhere. So no holiday in Benidorm in 2019. That’s when it will hit home, but too late. The EU if it gets its thinking cap on they should offer Scotland the UK’s place at the EU. The English will get what they wish for Empire 2.0 with only Wales as a member, bum deals from Trump, China and all who remember Empire 1.0. I wonder if my time in Germany would let me have a German passport?
    1. herbariumOctober 11, 2017 at 15:21″I wonder if my time in Germany would let me have a German passport?” Dave, you may want to read the FAQs on the website of the Auswaertiges Amt, the German Federal Foreign Office. https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/FAQ/Staatsangehoerigkeit/Uebersicht.html?nn=479790
      1. herbariumOctober 11, 2017 at 15:22Sorry, I’ll try again. German citizenship
    2. ThefailedstateOctober 12, 2017 at 10:34What a curious piece of vitriol. Apparently the author has never heard of the French ‘banlieues’ and the myriad of problems arising in their own social housing ‘estates’ – nor the causes. He condemns the English yet doesn’t seem to have left London in his six years of living here, never mind visiting the rest of the UK. As for all this hysteria about EU citizen rights and condemnation of possible registration, let me just say:- I had to register with the authorities and be provided with registration cards when I resided in Denmark. I had to provide documentary evidence of the very same things which are being requested now by the UK (which without doubt should always have been the case) – proof of self sufficiency and CSI (and health insurance) I had to report to the local Police station when I resided in Germany and supply the same financial and health documents. The blame for failing to have in place the same systems is on successive governments, but notably Blair’s New Labour who ushered in eastern europeans without a moment’s delay unlike other EU states. Freedom of movement and the effects on our housing and services may never have been as contentious had we even bothered to implement the rules we had at out disposal.
  55. Roland CzadaOctober 9, 2017 at 22:50Deep insights into a hyper-competitive and market-based English madness. The author identifies a backwardsupsidedownreversed island where upperclass people and tabloid readers have in common to believe that giving everyone an equal chance is—in some unspecified way—profoundly unfair.
  56. Tony MatthewsOctober 10, 2017 at 05:50What a tragedy that a single British life was lost saving these people from the Nazis.
  57. Guy RobertsOctober 10, 2017 at 08:53These are the musings of an arrogant, smug, Euro-lefty with nothing new to say. I’m delighted he’s left the country.
  58. Piet van GoghOctober 11, 2017 at 00:47I wonder, Meneer Luyendeek if any of your readers have spent time in your home town of Eindhoven. It was once, a vibrant place . And I don’t only mean that the WW11 bombs destroyed it. It was typically Dutch but like so much of The Netherlands, it has been wrecked by a form of marxism that pervades the country and indeed most of Europe. They have turned their back on their heritage. Mass immigration has made areas of Eindhoven no-go zones. Once elegant areas have been replaced by housing estates stuffed to the brim with immigrants, – more crime, more drugs, more drabness. The Dutch, who have lost any sense of nationalism or their illustrious history, turn their backs on elitism in any form and bang on about fairness and equality in self-conscious ignorance, They reject the very things that made them a great small nation to be reckoned with. Are these the same people of the Golden Age? They pepper their language with American English, pander to their EU puppet-masters in Brussels, open their borders to all and sundry., reject their culture and arts in favour of a global universal minimiliism. Nee, Mr Luyendeek, I’ll take Sovreignty, Brexit and our glorious prep and public schools over your brand of drab provincial marxism any day! Certainly to avoid the same fate as your country’s decline and fall
    1. VincentOctober 23, 2017 at 17:32Marxism Piet, really?
  59. TimOctober 11, 2017 at 14:33This article rejects England as not being a suitable member of the EU, with the Netherlands extolled as the complete opposite. The Netherlands, which rejects EU treaties at referendums. The Netherlands, where I hardly met a senior managers who was non-white. The Netherlands which has the largest anti-immigrant vote in Western Europe. The Dutch, particularly in the South are very warm, friendly and polite and you haven’t seen binge drinking until Carnivale. Certainly you have a sense of humour, the joke about EU co-operation was funny. The Northern European block will miss UK votes. Not that therr are blocks in the utopia which of the EU, a land so harmonious it decorates its bank notes with imaginary buildings for fear of upsetting anyone.
  60. S VAN ESOctober 11, 2017 at 16:36Having lived in Holland on a number of occasions it is interesting to see how blind the Dutch are to their own country. As a foreigner I had to register with the Dutch Alien Police, who refused to speak English, prove my income, health injections, nationality etc. Anyone who doesn’t have Dutch language certificate NT2 receives a fine. Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or public liability insurance, also fined. Of course you can get Silver Cross insurance if you are on benefits – good luck with that as a foreigner. I needed an EU official to quote EU law in a tribunal to force them to pay out. My children were dumped in a school for foreign kids, which was more of a zoo than a school. The headmistress told me that they had a low IQ from the Dutch language IQ test and their future was to be LBO – lower level occupational education – shelf stacking. My kind EU official, friend, took us to the Onderwijsbegeleigingsdienst (Educational support service) and the children were able to join the Montessori school, who were marvellous. As an IT professional with a good income and good connections I was fine. How about others? Culture shock?? Dutch Father Christmas has a black slave called Black Peter, who is from Morocco and catches naughty children, throws them in a bag and drags them back to Spain. To the Dutch – this is not racist – this is ‘cultural’ and heaven help foreigners who dare to criticize. As for finding people to work – good luck with that. There’s a huge majority of people who once on benefits prefer to stay on benefits if at all possible and it is hard to get people to do a day’s job. There is actually a professional class of person, their children are streamed into the Gymnasium or HAVO (Grammar School and Upper High School) while children on middle abilities go to MAVO for medium academic occupational education then as stated LBO for those children condemned to servitude. One daughter went to HAVO only for the Dutch language teacher to tell me that my daughter would never attain any level because she spoke Dutch with a foreign accent, thus would never go to university. I challenged her that it was her job to teach but the teacher shrugged her shoulder and walked off. Fortunately the Montessori were brilliant and took my daughter to join her sister and they really were fantastic. Nevertheless, parents complained if my daughters were given higher marks than their children since my girls are ‘foreign’ and so insisted on them being marked down. In my profession there is never a problem with work, in fact there isn’t much competition even though I speak Dutch with an accent. However, when I tried to hire someone into our organisation they were rejected by HR because they were over 50. So add age-ist to the list of prejudices. It was just so tough for people to find themselves employable from the age of 25 to 45. Lets talk about tax! You pay 40 to 50% tax then try and get it back – good luck with that. Also companies have to estimate their projected turnover and pay tax upfront then try and claim it back. To set up a company is extremely difficult and expensive. A co-worker from Surinam took the time to explain the Dutch to me. ….”They are all scared, they live in fear so they are insured to the teeth, they are scared of commitment, scared of tax, scared of losing their jobs and are a pretty depressed people. They are always looking at what other people have got and hate falling behind. That is why they don’t like foreigners”. The UK could indeed though learn a lot from Holland, such as professionalisation of rented housing instead of allowing private slum landlord operations. Also, the rules around housing ensure that housing is in good order. That doesn’t help them in terms of the horrendous problems they have with sewage pipes breaking under houses. Both houses in NL suffered and it required extensive work to repair. If you go to NL never buy a house, rent. They tried ethnic integration, which failed dreadfully mainly the indigenous Dutch are not going to integrate. Also, don’t think that they will become your ‘friend’. An acquaintance, maybe, but on the whole you need to make an appointment to visit them and they already have enough friends. I know countless expats who have found that Dutchies are first to the table when you invite them over for dinner and will scoff until they are full but don’t hold your breath waiting for a return invitation. A Swedish friend of mine had invited his neighbour to dinner five occasions and was never invited back. As for the Brexit/Remain – there are plenty of people in NL who would go for a Nexit except the Dutch are famous for their fear and being scared of taking bold moves. Whatever they had in the past is long over although they are good at cute little gadgets, minimalistic furniture, clean paths, roads, parks and it is a lovely place to visit. The Dutch Parliament reported that 8 – 10% of their goods were destined for the UK market thus why would they offer nice trade deals for Turkey and Ukraine but not the UK? Answer – sour grapes. The EU needs to make a statement and punish the UK, in so doing they may cut off their noses to spite their faces. They have not learned that the UK does not capitulate to threats, in fact it has the opposite effect.
  61. Davy JohnstonOctober 11, 2017 at 19:28I might be prepared to take a lesson from any other Euro nation but never the Dutch. They are brilliant people, at least one will be reading this, but I would never take a lesson from any country which allowed Srebrenica to happen, which allowed 3 members of my unit to be murdered in one night in their country and protected the woman who organised it, Donna Maguire, to live and move freely amongst them while we tried to extradite her to face the consequences of her murderous actions. Personally, while working as an unarmed negotiator in the Bosnian war a Dutch Captain, with an Uzi hanging round his neck like a handbag, walked away from me knowing I was about to be shot by a Bosnian muslim policeman for looking into the valley below and wondering why I and the food convoys had been stopped from free travel. Result, a previously undiscovered Bosnian muslim concentration camp for Serbs. Saved by a L/Cpl from The Royal Signals who came out of a storm drain in the aim. Dutch people, we Love you, your girls are amazing, you brew excellent beers, you drain swamps and do marine recovery better than anyone else on earth. Please stick to what you know…
  62. ThefailedstateOctober 12, 2017 at 11:01Sir, the irony of your post cannot go unchecked. I assume you are now of mature years, yet state since age 18 you have supported the SNP. You wish to return home and ‘fight’ for independence now. No need to fight. You had a referendum and your own countrymen voted NO. That seems to suggest you have as much issue with that result as you do with Brexit. I wonder how many times, you or your compatriots have been known to sing or shout abuse at the English? You sing about it at football and rugby matches to this day for heaven’s sake! Scotland can’t ‘be offered’ the UK’s place in the EU. You are not an independent country and you know fine will you have to apply for entry – and most likely with agreement to take the Euro. I really do wonder how generous the Scots will be to freedom of movement when EU immigrants can’t get into England and head there instead. So please, do go get a German passport – though of course you’ll find you aren’t eligible. You will however have to register as a permanent resident if you wish to stay – something which the ‘3 million’ here feel is so unfair apparently.
  63. JulesOctober 12, 2017 at 11:21This article really struck a chord with me. I’m a Brit who moved to Holland aged 1 where I was educated in the Dutch school system (Atheneum). Aged 19, I left Holland to pursue my studies in the UK never expecting the country my parents called ‘home’ could feel so alien to me. I felt utterly baffled by the class system, education system and University /School league tables. To this day, I get frustrated that most Brits fear speaking their mind or can’t be honest about their ‘real’ opinions. My children started their education in the State System (“why should you pay”, I used to exclaim). I quickly realised the ‘great divide’ in this country plays itself out in all echelons of society, including primary school, with the Middle Classes paying fortunes to ensure ‘little Johnny’s future is secured. As far as Brexit is concerned, I’m devastated as I had a dream to move back to Holland one day, a place I still consider ‘home’. This dream may now not be possible….or at least it will involve a lot of red tape & paperwork. I also fear that negotiations are being led by incompetent politicians who were too afraid to acknowledge that a U turn on Brexit should be the most sensible thing to do….maybe the Dutch would have handled the situation differently?
  64. daitwicegainOctober 12, 2017 at 16:23I can see why such an article is an attractive read to those who voted Remain. That should include me. Yes, I voted to Remain through gritted teeth, seeing that Remain and Reform would be off the table for the long term, if not in perpetuity. But I recognise the style and content for what it is: a muddled and disingenuous blend of identity and lifestyle politics with some gratuitous insult for ballast. Many expats never get through all the stages of culture shock to achieve a balanced view of their country of residence, and Joris Luyendijk appears to be one of them. All of us who have lived abroad can cite behaviours we find objectionable. Binge drinking and gambling are not the sole preserve of some UK citizens. Every nation on earth has its own style of recognising and upholding class distinctions. Every cohort of parents and students recognises distinctions between educational instititutions, even against official disapproval. That is why so many wealthy and aspiring EU citizens make use of British schools and universities. Such features of society are common to all countries, whatever the representatives of a bloc may decree. The difference is in how they are debated. For example, we have known that the UK has had a housing problem for decades. It has been discussed with varying degrees of vigour during that time, depending on whether or not sufficient people were being negatively affected. I lived in one northern EU country for almost a decade and witnessed one of the most corrupt housing markets anywhere, without the subject being available for public debate until recently. And this in a country that also prides itself on ‘plain speaking’. It may have something to do with even the upper middle classes now finding it difficult to jump the previously manipulated queues. (There’s also a lot of binge drinking behind closed doors, by the way.) We have reached a stage where attitudinising and lifestyle preferences will not help us. We are in a negotiation with institutions of the EU, a political construct that does not hold a monopoly on virtue, and has been experiencing a democratic deficit for some time. That is at the heart of Brexit. Do we want to sign up to what the driving forces of the EU wish it to become? If indeed anyone can state with any clarity what that is. We know it capable of being an organisation that will make the poorest EU citizens pay for the mistakes of its richest and most powerful. Or do we wish to be able to hold our governments and democratic representives to account in full for the actions they take in our name? Facing this choice is not in the final analysis the outcome of our “pathologies”, however much the 48% would like to characterise the outcome in that way. (Our more dangerous pathologies would have been encapsulated by the self-interested groupthink that led to the perceived necessity of bailing out hubristic bankers and entitled chancers in every walk of life, including politics and political commentary.) It is instead broadly based on a fundamental recognition of the values that underpin a society when its members are asked to choose.
  65. JustinOctober 13, 2017 at 00:13Brits prefer politeness over truth. When a British colleague says “that’s interesting”, it often does not mean your plan is ‘of interest’, it may as well suck but they won’t tell it. It’s polite, but not very useful. While a Dutch colleague would definitely say my plans suck, allowing me to improve myself and provoking a dialogue. It sometimes feels harsh, but also brings you closer together. Joris is right that a 52% remain vote would be equally bad if not worse. For the sake of 48% leavers the UK would continue to look for special treatments bc of British exceptionalism and stifle the development of the EU. Macron is the right person at the right timr to move the EU onwards. PS A lot of commenters are proving Joris right by the way. They point the other way, telling other countries are equally bad or worse. Is it so hard to look in the mirror? That too sometimes feels harsh, but also brings you closer to yourself.
  66. Jon SOctober 14, 2017 at 12:23I’m not a European, I’m a citizen of the world. The UK in it’s undoubted present chaos may well be the first country to come to it’s senses and create a new way of living to the current globalised exploitative mess. It’s also (more than most other European countries I’ve been to) probably the most racially integrated and tolerant – we can’t be bothered to be bothered about people wearing the hijab. Yes, it’s going to be a long way to go but we might just be the country that breaks with the current orthodoxy first. Here’s hoping!
  67. David BowenOctober 15, 2017 at 11:38Almost every word of this article strikes a chord and is true. Many comments relate to Brexit but that is not the thrust of the article, rather it is ‘the state of England’. England particularly is on a disastrous downward trajectory; sitting in Leeds Bradford Airport lounge at 06.00 twice recently and seeing hundreds (yes, hundreds) of people (young and older) drinking beer/prosecco with a queue 20 long for the bar is the only social observation required to sum up Emgland now. A large dumbed-down underclass drinking from the moment they leave our shores for little England by the Med or previously stylish and historically beautiful European cities, where they continue to drink, misbehave and rampage. Contrast this with spending time transferring planes in Schipol, or in Milan Malpensa airport and one is in a completely different world. My Dutch friend’s jaw nearly hit the ground when I described the scenes in Leeds Bradford Airport departure lounge. The article above describes much of the underlying roots of this problem. Honestly if my family did not have rather serious and unfortunate reasons to live here we would move abroad, but of course the little-Englanders Brexit bash has all but scuppered that option, as the cost of living in previously comparable countries is now rather higher. Britain needs a radical wind of change, politically, socially and culturally and it needs it fast. The contrast with our near-neighbours and previous ‘friends’ is now extraordinarily stark. ‘Normal’ life (not always rosy of course) continues in Europe while we drag much of society along in the sugary drinks, fast food, celebrity culture gutter whilst the ‘winners’ look down disdainfully from their gated fortresses, and the small middle try to battle for ‘normality’ Europe-style, wondering how it all went so wrong.
  68. emile de koningOctober 15, 2017 at 17:11Reading this article (the line that the UK don’t want a succesfull eu) makes me doubt about the chances of the EU. Its is quite simple for the UK in cooperation with donald trump US and the big data firms that the EU want to control, to manipulate members of the EU against the EU.
  69. Stephen G.October 15, 2017 at 18:12Hmmmm….where to start really. Obviously a well educated man with connections. Why else would he be writing in Prospect? Has he been on the continent recently or just read the papers? And what is it about the Metropolitan Liberal Elite who all seem to think that anyone who voted leave is an idiot and a racist? Condescending or what? THE problem with the EU is its arrogance that it is the only game in town in Europe and that any country so foolish as to not want to be a part of it on the EU’s terms must be punished. This is why the EU is not negotiating but trying to tell us what to do in the Brexit talks. This is not about delusions of grandeur or a return to a fantasy GREAT Britain with an empire. Any properly democratic club would not lightly want to lose its second most important member particularly as to keep it onboard would simply mean sticking to its own rules for one (economic convergence criteria of new members) and secondly recognising that it itself had made a huge error in allowing the unbridled free movement of people, the majority of who were looking not for professional jobs but for low wage jobs because the minimum wage in the UK is several factors higher than the minimum wage in their country. Come here and work for a few years in miserable conditions in order to earn enough to send home and set yourself up for life. Not a problem with people wanting to do that. I would do the same but it isn’t about coming to the UK because you love the culture and want to participate. Anyone who really wants to see the issue from the reality of living in a community where a significant proportion of the population do not even speak your language is living in a fantasy world. (By the way, London is not a good example as location in London has very little to do with community. Most people’s community in London comes from their work place.) It is a real issue for real people who can’t afford gardeners and nannies and cleaners to do their dirty work for them. If Loris just looked up a little he would see the movements all over Europe, not least Geert Wilders in his own country, driven to the fore by the fact that the political elite are not listening to people’s concerns. Just look at Catalonia recently for the fault lines that exist in Europe. It is a complete fallacy that the EU has prevented war in Europe. Democracy stops wars and the EU is the least democratic governing body of a major economic area in the world. It is always tough wne going against the grain and I have my concerns over Brexit but that is because unlike Loris, I can’t predict the future but what I do know is that in life you have to follow what you feel to be the best route for you and that money is a poor consideration to put first. I fully accept that Britain MAY be poorer. It may not but yes that is a possibility but I do not want to be ruled by unelected European bureaucrats whose agenda is to create a European superstate. That is one sure fire route to war. Lots of smaller independent, democratic states with mutual interests in the surest way to prevent future wars. We may be poorer yes but Frankfurt and Paris don’t be too hasty in thinking that all of a sudden London will be knocked easily off its pedestal as the world’s leading financial centre. It is not for nothing that the large Dutch financial house TFS recently announced moving ts HQ to London. There are many reasons as to where companies locate themselves. The rule of law is very high, democracy (closely linked), do employees want to live there, what is the business environment like. No-one wants to live in a dreary city like Frankfurt who has lived in London. Paris is a different proposition but no company worth its salt would locate its HQ in France due to the working environment. Not for nothing does Macron want to change it but good luck to him. So, Mr Luyendijk, please enjoy waking up to reality back in Holland. I’m afraid you have clearly missed a lot of what has been happening in Europe and the world recently. The world is moving East. Europe is declining as a proportion of world GDP. By 2025 according to the PwC financial report India’s GDP will have outstripped the whole of Europe, if Europe is still in one piece as Poland barely hangs on to democracy and Hungary is overtly flouting EU rules. Let’s not consider what might happen should one of the most abhorrent regimes in the world, Albania, become part of Europe, let alone Turkey. No, Mr Luyendijk, you are entirely wrong in your assessment. The EU is the arrogant one. They made a fool out of Cameron and should have read the Runes instead. The fissures in Europe run deep and will not be plastered over. I hope that the EU sees sense and starts to negotiate but if not we will survive outside of the EU. Many countries do. Just one final thought. If the EU is so pro free trade why is it so keen on keeping all the power to itself? Surely it should be embracing a new model or perhaps it wants to take over the world as it seems the only countries it wants to do business with must pay a heavy price. I have learned in my personal life that there is ALWAYS another choice no matter how desperate the situation is and that the key thing is to do the right thing. The rest will sort itself out with commitment, energy, passion and foresight. Let’s see where we are in 10 years. None of the dire predictions post the Brexit vote have come true (no-one talks about the lies peddled by the Remain campaign) and none of them will. This has nothing to do with arrogance or a wish to return to Empire or a hatred or dislike of foreigners or any other claptrap peddled by the MLE. It is simply because, like it or not, we have a vibrant economy and a powerful, entrenched democracy. The EU should be doing its best to keep Britain in the EU. I believe it will live to regret it unless it changes its ways.
  70. David E C.October 16, 2017 at 18:06One of the best analyses I have read of the private school system, and why the Guardian (and the metropolitan left in general) are so unwilling to criticize it. I could not understand why left leaning journalists are so critical of grammar schools, while completely ignoring of the effect of the private system, but of course no Guardian journalist or Labour Politician sends their kids to grammars… like Harriett Harman, they all go private.
    1. robert wyattDecember 11, 2017 at 17:05well , Harriet H is of the Blair newlabour batch – probably right about THOSE labour people, but –the new lot ? i’d be surprised if many of THEM send their children to fee-paying schools. The Guardian represents the Blair generation, and what you say is probably more true about them
  71. Alastair W.October 17, 2017 at 20:17At what age do young children start understanding what empathy is? At what age do grown adults lose this understanding?
  72. Peter SullivanOctober 19, 2017 at 19:46For all the belief in the greater good, this article reeks strongly of self-pity and nothing else but me, me, me…
  73. Michael MaguireOctober 29, 2017 at 11:06Substitute ‘Trump’ for ‘Brexit’ and this article embodies what many Canadians have known for some time about the United States. However, rather than a state school system beleaguered by class hierarchies, instead there you have one intentionally dismantled by good old folks still smarting from imposed desegregation. Go vouchers!
  74. L v ANovember 21, 2017 at 13:27While I agree with some points in this article, I cant help feeling that it further propagates a narrative around class that is not necessarily supported by the evidence. Saying you feel sorry for your “pro-EU, middle-class friends” and practically equating ‘the poor’ to the Leave camp is questionable. In fact, empirical work suggests 52% of people who voted the leave in the referendum lived in the South of England, and 59% were in the middle classes, while the proportion of Leave voters in the lowest two social classes was just 24%.This research suggests the racialized nature of our labour markets may be more to blame: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-4446.12317/full It is true that those perceiving themselves as “left behind” were probably the ones voting Leave, but tying this directly to class is (at best) uninformed.
  75. RubyDecember 31, 2017 at 03:37The English must have more in common with Americans then . We live in each other’s country happily . Joris as you have left our ‘shitty little island’ good riddance , byee, see ya wouldn’t want to be ya.

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Joris Luyendijk Joris Luyendijk is a Dutch non-fiction author and news correspondent. He is the author of “Swimming with Sharks: My Journey into the World of the Bankers” (2015)

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Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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