Toxic comments highlight bitter divisions in Finland over Brexit

A very public dispute between supporters of Brexit, and supporters of Britain remaining in the European Union took a nasty turn on the British Embassy's social media channels.

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UK and EU flags flying outside British Embassy Helsinki on Brexit Day, 31st January 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

The EU flag was still flying outside the British Embassy in Helsinki on Friday evening as staff locked up and diplomats went home for the weekend – although it will likely be down by dawn.

Earlier, comments on the Embassy’s Facebook page highlighted the bitter divisions that Brexit has caused among even UK nationals who benefit from being members of the EU with rights to live and work in Finland.

The UK leaves the EU at 23:00 London time on Friday – midnight in Brussels and 01:00 Saturday morning Helsinki time – more than three and a half years after a referendum that brought a clear majority result for those who wanted Britain to carve its own future apart from the other 27 countries of the European Union.

“Today the UK is leaving the European Union. It is not leaving Europe. The British Government is carrying out the will of the British people” said Ambassador Tom Dodd, in a video posted on social media.

There were dozens of responses to the video which illustrate how contentious Brexit is, and embassy moderators had to urge posters to be polite and respectful.

“I raise a large glass of Koskenkorva in celebration not just to my fellow Leave voters in Finland but also to all those British citizens in Finland who would have voted Leave but could not. Today is our well deserved victory and I’m going to get absolutely smashed” wrote someone called James Golding, who uses a British flag as their Facebook picture.

Joel Willans, author of the ‘Very Finnish Problems’ book replied to Golding “you took advantage of membership and then you voted to deprive entire generations of its privileges and now you come on here with your ridiculous fake account bigging it up, so proud that you hide your face behind the flag you and your peers have done some much to diminish. I’d get smashed too if I’d have acted so shamefully towards my fellow countrymen and women.”

Another British national in Finland Mike Ayling began insulting Willans who in turn suggested the Golding account was fake, and that Ayling was behind it.

The argument peaked when Golding said he might call an ambulance for Willans “because a night in the hospital sounds like it might do him some good.” The Golding account has no verifiable public information to confirm it is in fact a real person.

Other comments were less confrontational, but still emotive.

“I’m ashamed to be ‘British’. This sucks” wrote Bekkie Liuska in Kajaani; while David Hackston wrote “this is a day of national shame.”

“We have been thoroughly let down by the British Government. You have subjected us to three and a half years of stress and uncertainty. And here we are, finally, on the day Britain leaves the EU, and the details of what will happen to British citizens living in EU countries is *still* not completely finalised” says Ian Russell-Jones.

“You, and the government you represent, should be ashamed today. I have far more faith that the Finnish government will look after us in any forthcoming negotiations or deals” he adds.

Prime Minister’s Brexit comments

Meanwhile Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) says that Finland respects the UK’s decision and the withdrawal agreement signed by Britain and the European Union means that “Brexit will take place in an orderly manner, which is a good thing.”

“Now it is time to look into the future and focus on negotiating as close partnership relations with the UK as possible” says the PM.

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