In the latest public controversies linked to the UK’s decision to quit the EU, Brexit was compared to Pontius Pilate’s “mini-referendum” at Golgotha on BBC’s Radio 4, while a French mayor decided to pay tribute to the vote by naming a street after it.
With 2016 drawing to a close, not everyone seemed to agree with “Brexit” making it into word-of-the-year lists. Speaking on the Radio 4’s show “A Point Of View,” writer Howard Jacobson argued that “people” should be chosen as the word of the year on the grounds that it was by the “will of the people” to vote “Leave” in UK referendum – as well as decide the fate of the US presidential elections.
He then seemingly drew a parallel some found controversial.
“On a seasonal note, it is worth remembering that Pontius Pilate offered the multitude a mini-referendum… In their wisdom, the people chose the common criminal Barabbas to be released, leaving Jesus to be crucified,” Jacobson said, as quoted by the Independent.
The Bruges Group, a right-wing British think tank known for its Eurosceptic stance, demanded that the BBC issue an apology for the comments made by Jacobson.
“Apart from being tasteless, the comparison is also a smear on the 17.4 million people who legitimately voted for the UK to leave the European Union,” the Bruges Group said, requesting that both the BBC and the writer “publicly apologize for the unjustified offense.”
A BBC spokesperson defended Jacobson’s comments to the Express newspaper, saying that the writer “was deliberately using some surprising and humorous comparisons to reinforce his point that just because a majority makes a choice, it doesn’t mean they are right.” The show was supposed to be delivered in a satirical tone, the spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, the medieval town of Beaucaire in southern France has found its way into the international media spotlight after its mayor decided to name a remote street “rue du Brexit.”
Julien Sanchez, from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front, (FN) has been main charge of the town on the Rhone River since 2014. He came up with the Brexit street proposal as a “homage to the sovereign British people’s decision,” he wrote in a Twitter post, with official papers attached.
The members of the Municipal Council, including Sanchez, voted in favor of the decision by 23 votes against nine. However, it can still be disputed before the Administrative Tribunal of Nimes within two months, France Bleu reports.
“We have already received lots of messages of thanks and congratulations from British people,” the mayor told France Bleu, adding that he is not expecting much of a debate on the issue.
While the move drew the ire of French language purists, who slammed Sanchez for attempting to give a lesson on patriotism with English neologisms, it was praised by the UK’s Leave Campaign as a “fine choice.”
The National Front and Brexit supporters have applauded the decision, predicting that another neologism, Frexit, could soon emerge next year after the French presidential elections.
“Rue du Frexit would have been better and above all prophetic!” one of the Twitter accounts campaigning for Le Pen wrote.
Le Pen, whose main rival for the presidency in 2017 is expected to be conservative François Fillon, promised to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership if elected.
The street also ironically lies between Robert Shuman street and Jean Monnet avenue. Both French politicians and state figures laid the foundations of what has now become the European Union. This prompted some inquisitive commentators to look for probably more symbolism than was originally intended.
“This street is circular. It is a longer way to go from Schuman street to… Schuman street. You have been trolled,” @eurobubbler tweeted.
“Good joke mate! Road to nowhere “Rue de Brexit,” @EnricHilversum wrote.
“So a street that leaves from Europe (Robert Schuman) to return to Europe. Beautiful symbol indeed,” another commentator tweeted.