“What on earth has happened to Britain?” The astonished writer of a scathing Swiss newspaper editorial has tried to work out how the United Kingdom has gone in two years from a “respected actor on the international stage” to its “current chaos”.
“If the situation in Britain weren’t so serious, it would all be hilarious,” began the articleexternal link in Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger and Bern’s Der Bund on Monday – the day talks started between negotiators from London and Brussels on Britain leaving the European Union.
There were two main reasons for the country’s reversal of fortune, the author proposed: the Conservative party’s “obsessive hatred” of the EU, and the irresponsibility of former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the June 2016 referendum on Brexit “and put the country’s future at stake in order to placate a few fanatics in his party”.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear what an extraordinarily bad decision that was. The fact that Britain has become the laughing stock of Europe is directly linked to the vote in favour of Brexit,” the editorialist wrote.
It is British citizens who are bearing the brunt, he added. Not only were they lied to by Brexit supporters during the campaign, but also “betrayed and taken for idiots” by parts of the media. This “unfathomable shamelessness” continues today with coverage of the recent fireexternal link at the Grenfell Tower block of flats in London in which so far at least 79 people have died.
The Daily Express, a rightwing tabloid, ran a headline asking whether EU regulations meant deadly cladding had been used in the tower block. The Tages-Anzeiger said it was easy to find out that the answer is no, but by publishing the unchecked version, the suspicion has been planted that it’s the EU’s fault.
“A country with a media that in parts is so demonstrably indifferent to the truth and uses a catastrophe like the Grenfell Tower blaze for its own tasteless propaganda has a serious problem,” it wrote.
On Monday, EU and British Brexit negotiators stressed the need to quickly tackle uncertainties in the process.
The problem, according to the Tages-Anzeiger and Der Bund, is that the British government “doesn’t know what it wants” and is led by an “unworldly, ivory-tower politician”, referring to Cameron’s successor, Theresa May.
“After the loss of the Empire, the UK went in search of a new place in the world. It eventually found itself a strong, uncomfortable and influential part of a larger alliance: as part of the European Union,” the writer concluded.
“It gave up this position unnecessarily. The consequence, as is now becoming apparent, is a veritable identity crisis from which the country will not recover for a long time.”