Ian McEwan clarifies comments likening Brexit to living under the Third Reich

'The air in my country is very foul'

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Ian McEwan - author of the Man Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam and best known for Atonement - has been an outspoken critic of Britain leaving the European Union, once calling the Brexit vote “a plebiscite of dubious purpose and unacknowledged status”.

While in Barcelona promoting his latest project, Nutshell, the acclaimed author once again made his thoughts on Brexit clear, calling it “a real disaster” and comparing the state of affairs to Nazi Germany.

UPDATE: McEwan has since clarified his comments, saying in a statement to The Guardian: “I do not think for a moment that those who voted to leave the EU, or their representatives, resemble Nazis. Nor does our government even faintly resemble the Third Reich.

“Nor do I believe that the voting process itself was anything but an accurate representation of current thinking. However, I did say to the assembled journalists that the phrase ‘enemies of the people’ was one associated with Robespierre and therefore carried an unpleasant association; I did say that the press harrying of some judges of the supreme court was nasty (not Nazi).”

ORIGINAL COMMENTS: “Sixteen million Britons wanted to stay in the EU and 17 million wanted to leave,” he said according to Spanish news outlet El País, as picked up by The Guardian

“But there exists a small and very energetic political group made up of opaque and impatient people who are driving the process and who speak as though half the country were the entire country.

“It’s also serious because Great Britain works on the basis of a parliamentary democracy and not through plebiscites, which remind me of the Third Reich.”

Talking about politicians who speak on ‘behalf of the people’, he criticised how they react when others disagree. 

“Their militant wing, the tabloid press, has started to look into the lives of the judges who rule that Brexit could result in the loss of human rights to see whether they’re homosexual or something,” he said. “It’s reminiscent of Robespierre and the terror of the French revolution. The air in my country is very foul.”

​McEwan was referring to an incident last November when three High Court judges ruled members of Parliament should vote on triggering Article 50. 

Numerous publication lambasted the judges, The Daily Mail calling them “enemies of the people” while The Telegraph called the upset “The judges versus the people”.

Last year McEwan backtracked on remarks about transgender identity in an open letter, after criticism from an LGBT charity.