12 May 2016

What the term ‘Little Englander’ might say about those who use it


For decades the British political class, and the class of Britons who holiday in Tuscany and the Dordogne, held their fellow countrymen and women who wanted out of the EU in contempt. The most frequent insult casually thrown around was that they were ‘Little Englanders’.

Now it appears they were insulting approximately half of the population.

They were so sure of themselves, and they heard such a massive echo in the chamber of the broadcast media, they never stopped to think.

Now, despite people from the left and right coming together to make the arguments for and against, there are still some who hold the view that those intending to vote to leave the EU next month are on the wrong side of history, are ignorant of facts, and are slightly unpleasant nationalistic types from a nation of shopkeepers. However, if they do, they may need to apply the insults to people in…. Tuscany and the Dordogne, because perhaps they are the ‘Piccolo Italians’ and ‘Petit French.’

This week’s Ipsos/Mori poll on attitudes in EU countries about Brexit and the EU in general makes interesting reading.

45% of Europeans want their own referendum on membership. This varies from as low as 38% in Hungary, to 58% in Italy, and 55% in France. That is different to how they might vote, but the realization that a debate is required is present.  The French would probably vote to stay in by about 59% but in Italy it looks like a 50/50 split.

About half of people surveyed believe that if the UK does leave it might start a domino effect. 40% believe that there will be a reduced EU by 2020.

None of this is to argue for Brexit, it is simply to show that it was snobbery which led to the idea of Little Englanders and it was so loudly and frequently proclaimed that, certainly among the middle classes, those with concerns about the EU project mostly kept quiet. Some of those who didn’t were often regarded as being on the fringes of political discourse.

And that is one of the reasons why, rumbling along under the surface of those with certainty, there were others who resented the terms of the debate. That resentment has surfaced in Britain  and is surfacing across the continent.

Many readers might assume from this article that the writer is for Brexit. It is neither for nor against, it is in support of a lifelong belief; Accept your own bias, use it to better understand a different point of view, and, with the exceptions of the violent extremes, respectfully disagree with those views.

This article was originally published by Tim Marshall at The What And The Why, and can be found here.

Tim Marshall was Diplomatic Editor and foreign correspondent for Sky News, and now runs the website The What And The Why, where this article was originally published.