What can Brexit take from post-war Paris?

The war is over, the rubble cleared and the fires extinguished. It’s October 1945 and in a shaken Paris an enlarged version of the Algers Consultive Assembly is prepared to hold elections for a new Constituent Assembly who will lay the foundations for the Fourth French Republic. Rather than hold a referendum, Chairman of the provisional government De Gaulle was keen to order an executive which was dismissed by the communists who wanted an instant constitutional assembly with full powers as well as the Socialists and MRP who wanted a time limit of 7 months, after which the draft constitution would be submitted for another referendum.

The Communists, socialists and MRP wished to restrict De Gaulle’s power and that they did…

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The proportionally representative election erupted into 13 out of the 21 million votes going towards the three biggest parties as a figure of 75%. 158 seats to the communists, 152 seats to the MRP and 142 seats to the Socialists with the leftovers eaten by versions right wing parties. The parties did make concessions for their defeated chairman however as they elected him head of government on the 13th of November 1945. This is when you see the fires relight as De Gaulle would not elect a cabinet of what he called “foreign agents” and as the flames rose between him and Maurice Thorez, De Gaulle passed is letter of resignation to the speaker of the assembly.

The communists received 5 out of the 22 ministries which was hopeful at least compared to De Gaulle who was frustrated with the new Constituent Assembly and its “regime of parties” He viewed the draft constitution has placing too much power in the hands of a parliament with shifting alliances. His suspicions only grew when the communists advocated a 20% reduction in the military budget, De Gaulle would not rule by compromise and the threat of resignation again appeared. This was seen as the president blackmailing the assembly into subservience as withdrawing is personal prestige would remove what he believed was keeping the ruling coalition together.

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20th of January 1946 saw its war hero finally resign with no restorative executive desired by his people. The move did see change under the new chairman Gouin with compulsory funded retirement and workers compensation laws, 40 hour law and overtime pay reestablished, Comites de entreprise extended to firms with 50 workers, decolonisation of the four oldest colonies of Reunion/Guyane/Martinique/Gaudeloupe, nationalisation of coal/electricity/gas/9 main insurance companies

This is a long bit of history but it goes to show what we face today has been around long enough for our society to adapt even in the face of this kind of conflict. The similarities between this example and our own referendum are quite interesting but than again the comparison of De Gaulle to David Cameron are probably best left alone.


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