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English Brexiteers sing when they're winning on the French Riviera

Soccer

They voted to take Britain out of the European Union – now they’re back on the continent hoping to see England’s national soccer team conquer Europe.

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From beaches to bars around the world, England fans are flaunting their patriotism – covering city streets in the flag of St George and evoking past glories with jingoistic songs.

It was no different on the French Riviera overnight but there were new songs, with Brexit backers among the English fans celebrating Britain’s EU landmark referendum result.

“We voted to leave,” dozens of England fans chanted on a scorching afternoon in Nice.

The referendum transforming Britain’s relationship with Europe was staged between England completing the Euro 2016 group stage and tomorrow morning’s round of 16 game against Iceland.

England fans flew back into France overnight, Australian time, to see French newspaper headlines expressing concerns about the implications of Brexit for the future of the EU.

The result came on Friday morning – with the Leave campaign winning by 52 per cent – but a corrosive national debate has left some raw wounds.

Those divisions were evident in the south of France as England fans sank pints of beer.

“In my age group, between 18 to 30, on Facebook you are vilified if you voted ‘Out,”‘ said Kane Boenke, a bare-chested Millwall fan from London.

“You are seen as xenophobic, racist by anyone who voted it seems. People can’t accept it.”

Fellow Londoner Ed Black overheard the chat and said he voted to stay in the EU, but had reservations.

“I voted ‘In’ because there was no plan from ‘Out,”‘ Black said.

“I agreed with everything ‘Out’ said, their ambitions are great. But we don’t know how they will get there.

“It’s like a mystery box. We don’t know what’s going to happen now.”

It is 20-year-olds like Black, early in their working careers, who will feel the repercussions for better or for worse for most of their lives.

“It’s a protest that went wrong,” Steve Donaldson said.

“Why would you leave an economy that is booming? No one thought we would leave”.

Steve Mason voted to cast Britain adrift from the EU, but was unhappy to hear expletive-laden chants being directed by compatriots at their French hosts.

“I didn’t sing because I’m respectful,” Mason said.

An England supporter shows his support ahead of the UEFA Euro 2016, Group B match at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne.. Picture date: Monday June 20, 2016. See PA story SOCCER England. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only. Book and magazine sales permitted providing not solely devoted to any one team/player/match. No commercial use. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

England supporters have been prominent during the Euro 2016 tournament. Photo: Nick Potts / PA Wire.

By the time the next European Championship is held in four years’ time, Britain is due to be out of the political and trade union formed out of the ashes of World War II.

UEFA designed the 2020 tournament to celebrate Europe, staging matches in 13 cities across the continent. And the centrepiece of Euro 2020 will be in London, with the semifinals and final at Wembley Stadium.

It’s likely the rifts and divisions in Britain over the nation’s relationship with Europe will still be as fraught.

And England fans are unlikely to stop singing about it.

-AP

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