In Dordogne, British expatriates recalled to the polls for legislative elections

In Dordogne, British expatriates recalled to the polls for legislative elections

On the terrace of the Tortoni café in Eymet, pints of Guinness pile up on the tables. In this Dordogne town of 2,600 inhabitants, more than 15% of the population is British. Expatriates who have come to enjoy the peace and quiet of this little corner of France. As the Euro 2024 match between France and Poland kicks off, followed by England and Slovenia, the supporters from across the Channel are being fair-play. And a bit teasing. “You know we’re going to bring the cup home?” sneers Oliver, a young working man from Kent. In Eymet, patriotism is fully assumed, as much on a linguistic as on a cultural and sporting level. But when the British general election on July 4 is mentioned, the smiles disappear. Eyes roll, sighs fly. Politics no longer interests, it even exasperates.

A right regained

And yet, until 1985, English people abroad did not have the right to vote. Since 2022 and the promulgation of theElections Actthe 3.4 million Britons who have lived outside Great Britain for more than fifteen years – 135,000 in France – have recovered it. But, disgusted by the consequences of Brexit and the antics of the Tories, many are dragging their feet. Like Ben, a draftsman in an architectural firm, who has lived in France since the 2000s. Since his vote against Brexit in 2016, he has no longer been allowed to exercise his right. “It’s weird,” admits the father. This year, he intends to take advantage of his return to the electoral lists to take revenge on the Tories (the Conservative Party), at the origin of this hated Brexit.

In Eymet, the simple evocation of the B-Word bristles. Jane Patterson runs the village grocery store, a shop where canned beans sit alongside Marmite spreads. Before Brexit, the shopkeeper imported her goods from England. On June 23, 2016, her orders stopped. “I had to turn to Ireland, but the products are not the same,” she describes, dejected. Today, she still struggles to get fresh food delivered and her prices have almost doubled, with cheddar going from 2.50 to 3.95 euros.

In Dordogne, as in the United Kingdom, the Tories’ fourteen years in power are being decried. On a national scale, they would only win 18% of the vote, compared to 36% for their Labour opponents (left). At the origin of theElections Act they hoped to limit the damage by opening the vote to expatriates, whose sociological profile seems to make them strong supporters. Like Julia and her husband Roger, Conservatives since forever. But the couple have changed their minds in recent years. The parties organized during Covid at 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister at the time, Boris Johnson, were the last straw. Disappointed and betrayed, they will not vote this year.

The expected abstention reflects the dismay of British expatriates. “Brexit is a national trauma. People no longer want to talk about it, a way of protecting themselves from the chaos in the United Kingdom,” explains Laëtitia Langlois, lecturer in British civilization at the University of Angers (Maine-et-Loire). Because the country seems to be broken down. Growth and wages are stagnating, industry is faltering, the health system is overflowing… As in France, the subject of immigration is becoming an obsession. Even in Eymet, there is talk of an “unrecognizable England”, “immigrants treated better than the British”. On the island, the far-right Reform UK party, led by Nigel Farage – a big supporter of Brexit – is reportedly close behind the Conservatives with 17% of voting intentions.

A shunned integration

In this oasis that seems to reflect the 13th century bastide, people are more concerned about the French legislative elections, without necessarily wanting to take part in them. None of the expatriates interviewed wanted to become naturalised, even though some have been living in Eymet for over five years. Anne-Marie Jebouji, director of the tourist office, can count them on the fingers of one hand. “It’s all or nothing: some British people will try to integrate into the population and speak French; others will want to stay among themselves and only speak English,” she says. But like a refrain, the question comes up in every discussion with French people. “And what do you think of your elections? Will we have to leave too?” Mark half-jokes, turning back to the French team’s match. In Eymet, the National Rally won 31% of the vote in the last European elections, and more than 37% in the first round of the legislative elections.

Similar Posts