England Has Fired The First Shot

06/24/2016 08:50 am ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

PARIS -- Is this the end of the known world?

Nobody really believed the Brexit would happen, but it did. We've been together for 43 years, which means many of us have never known a Europe without Great Britain in it. So let's try to process our emotional reaction, not to the fate of the EU's economy, which we will soon analyze in abundance, but to this farewell. Let us not kid ourselves, this is a real farewell.

This is the defeat of youth!

-- First, let us think of our British friends. Because they are our friends, to whom our fathers and grandfathers owed much in the darkest hours of the 20th century. We can forget Chamberlain, but Winston Churchill -- a distant predecessor of David Cameron! -- is a European hero whose courage, foresight, and determination saved us all from the nightmare.

-- We should also think of the young Britons, who, like all the world's youth, dream of space, freedom of movement, a world without visas. An overwhelming 75 percent of them voted to stay in Europe. This is the defeat of youth, the defeat of those who refused to withdraw into the identity of small little England, cut off from Ireland and Scotland, who would prefer to stay in Europe. It's the defeat of the open sea, of those who are not afraid. And it is the victory of populist lies about foreign invasions, the fantasy of Turkey joining the EU, and the "independence" the UK would have lost. What a delusion!

How weak will we be if we replace a multipolar world, built on blocks of approximate equality, with the fragmentation of nations made all the more vulnerable to those who wish to tear Europe apart?

-- Then let us think of those who bought those lies. As MEP Pervenche Berès rightly said in a column this morning, "It is the European Union that allows its member states to make their voices heard in today's world." The Union resists the Chinese and American empires, deals with defense issues, terrorism, relocations. How weak will we be if we replace a multipolar world, built on blocks of approximate equality, with the fragmentation of nations made all the more vulnerable to those who wish to tear Europe apart?

-- And so finally, a thought for a dream that has flown away. Europe was built without the English and can continue without them. But the poison has entered our minds. Since we can leave, let's leave, it's as simple as a vote! And many fear that the contagion will spread. Nexit, Frexit ... we're already seeing demolishers rejoice, calling for countries to split off. Who would have thought Marine Le Pen was such an Anglophile that she'd post a Union Jack on her Twitter account. The ancestors of the National Front, her predecessors in the French extreme right, definitely never supported any British decision like this.

Tomorrow's leaders will be those who can offer a real vision for Europe.


-- Faced with all those who will say it's not so dramatic, we must say that yes, it is. And we must act quickly. Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel are set to meet on Monday. But why not today, why not this weekend? When a French President is elected, he flies to Berlin the very next day to reassure his German counterpart that nothing will change in the country's policy. This is not the time for speech, it's the time for decisions to be made. Set up a Eurozone parliament and an economic government. Harmonize tax and social protections. Democratic Europe, as it stands, is too far from the people. We need signs that show Europe is actually awake. This is not a time for reassuring or soothing words before we all turn back to our domestic concerns. Germany and France both have elections coming up in 2017. This is not the time to make small calculations. Tomorrow's leaders will be those who can offer a real vision for Europe. Otherwise, English gentlemen, you really fired first.

This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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