LONDON (Reuters) - A giant scaffold bearing the image of British Prime Minister Theresa May appeared on the cliffs of Dover on Monday, complete with a Union Flag skirt and a rude hand gesture indicating to the rest of Europe that it should go away.
The iconic row of white cliffs along Britain’s south coast is the closest British landmark to continental Europe and the first sign of England that many sea-faring visitors see.
But Dover, 27 miles (43 km) northwest of Calais in France, voted by nearly 2 to 1 to leave the European Union in last year’s referendum, with coastal towns in southeast England seeing some of the highest levels of immigration from the EU.
May has promised to deliver Brexit and is hoping to win a strong mandate for her approach in Thursday’s national election.
The structure, which was erected with a crane but whose origin is a mystery, towered over trees and nearby buildings, and had been doctored to show a smiling May flashing a V-sign with her left hand.
A V-sign with palm facing outwards is a sign of peace or victory, famously used by former British leader Winston Churchill. But when the back of the hand is outward, it is a cruder sign which indicates contempt.
The Sun newspaper used the latter kind of V-sign on a famous front cover in 1990 which read “Up Yours, Delors,” in a message to the then-President of the European Commission, which invited readers to tell Jacques Delors to “frog-off” over his plans for European integration.
It’s not the only public display of a Union Flag in recent days, with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lit up with the flag, affectionately known as the Union Jack, in solidarity with the Britain after an attack in London Bridge by militants that left 7 dead on Saturday.
May has said that she wants Britain to be a close partner of the European Union once it leaves the bloc, though one local resident said the effigy of May swearing at Europe was vulgar.
“Whether you agree or disagree with Brexit, it was crass, vulgar and insulting to any Europeans coming into Dover on the ferry and a ridiculous message to send to Europe when we are about to start negotiating our exit from the EU,” local resident Simon Hare told local website Kent Online, which said the structure had now been taken down.
Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Pritha Sarkar