THERE is a wide range of opinions among the people I know in France, and actually, there isn’t much consensus to be found, even among my closest friends. The only thing that everyone I know agrees on is the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe, and in particular with us, the French.

This is how every conversation I have in France about Brexit invariably ends: “Well the English (or the British, most people think these words are interchangeable) never wanted to play collectively. They always want to have their cake and eat it. They’re not to be trusted, and even if Brexit was bad, actually, good riddance!” Of course, having Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of a government that flirts with the idea of not respecting the treaties it signs doesn’t help with the trust issue.

Even journalists, who are supposed to be unbiased, struggle to say otherwise. “It looks like the British are enjoying the spat”, said the presenter of a political show on national TV the other day, discussing the withering diplomatic relations between France and the UK and the many stumbling blocks between our two countries, from Brexit and the consequences on the fishing industry to the tragedy of refugees dying while crossing the Channel.

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He did have a point, and to be fair, I think it would be naive not to see that both sides have an interest in exploiting these issues, as ghastly as it is when it concerns the lives of people dying while trying to flee war and poverty. The press in Britain loves a good spat with the French, especially since President Emmanuel Macron adopted a tougher stance with the UK Government during the negotiations to leave the EU and since Brexit effectively happened.

On his side, the French President is looking at a tricky re-election campaign next year, and his position towards the British is probably exactly what he needs to solidify a pro-European, progressive, centre-left electorate that has felt sorely neglected ever since he was elected in 2017.

Moreover, a literal and metaphorical sea separates Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron’s styles, personalities, and politics. Brexit is the reason why Boris Johnson is Prime Minister: leaving the EU has served his political career well. He wants to be liked and will not hesitate to joke around and play the fool to get your attention. Macron is the opposite: he believes, like former socialist President Francois Mitterrand, that “France is our homeland, and Europe is our future”, and needs to be portrayed as the proponent of a strong France in a strong Europe. You’ll always see him with impeccable hair, and a certain contempt for saying what you want to hear: in fact, he’ll often clash and offend the French people, like the time he called us all “change-averse Gauls”.

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Right now, it feels that France and the UK are stuck in a loveless marriage, but still need to find it in themselves to stay civil because they share so much. The UK might feel that it is being “punished” for Brexit (which it isn’t, by the way: it is just experiencing the reality of Brexit), but there are always two sides to an argument.

The French have taken the British departure from the EU like a bad breakup: first with disbelief, then frustration for what was perceived as a giant middle finger sent from across the Channel. “Why should we make an effort with the Brits when they’ve essentially told us that they’re better off on their own? The best thing between them and us may indeed be the Channel”, is something I have heard countless times.

Typically, my answer is: even if you oppose Brexit, aren’t you sorry for the many people who didn’t vote for it, especially the people of Scotland, who think more than ever before that it was an extraordinary mistake? That usually makes them think for a bit, before they reply, pretty much invariably: “Ah the Scots. We don’t blame them. They’re welcome back anytime.”