Schnitz-canned! How Austria trolled Brexit Britain

When online images of this stamp surfaced in early 2020, some collectors were sceptical that it was genuine.

Austria 2020 Brexit

There was good reason to think it wasn’t. As if German-speaking Austria would write its name on its stamps in English! (‘Österreich’ is the standard inscription.) And as if a serious, modern nation would issue a Brexit stamp with a ‘strikethrough’ joke on it!

To set the sceptics straight: as it happens, German-speaking Austria sometimes writes its name in English on its stamps. And yes, the serious, modern nation of Austria issued a Brexit stamp with a strikethrough joke on it.

It’s a troll! Those strudel-slurping scamps.

There’s nothing subtle about it, either. I’m surprised they didn’t add “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehn, goodbye.”

The strikethrough joke was a happy accident, but it’s the cherry on top of a great, simple design by Anita Kern. Here is Europe, with EU nations in dark blue. (Did you spot Portugal’s Madeira archipelago hiding among the perforations at bottom left? The Azores and the Canary Islands are further afield and seem to have missed the cut.)

Nestled among the dark blue nations is the rancorous UK. It’s in a light blue – so light that it’s almost invisible, like the personae non gratae of EU holdouts Norway, Switzerland and the funny little Russian exclave of Kaliningrad that the UK now aspires so enthusiastically to emulate.

(Edit: The UK is printed on the stamp with a light blue transparent varnish. Thanks to reader Dustin who mentioned in the comments below that, when held to the light at a certain angle, this varnish makes the UK disappear. Meow! I love it.)

Then there’s the »BREXIT« inscription and that date. The stamp was originally to be released when Britain had scheduled itself for release from the EU: 29 March, 2019. According to reports, 140,000 of those stamps were printed. But as the UK and the EU failed to come to an agreement, the official Leave date was pushed out to 31 January, 2020. Why waste any more money printing new stamps? Austria Post overprinted the stamps accordingly, striking out the old date and adding the new. The stamps were released when the Britain FINALLY left. They were an instant hit.

The denomination is intriguing. I’m pretty sure that €1.80 is the cost of a standard priority letter to the ‘rest of the world’ – outside of European nations, be they EU or non-EU. Letters bearing these stamps are not going to the UK.

Would the cost of a letter to the UK (one euro) have been more pointed? The UK wanted to leave the EU, and the EU surely by then couldn’t wait to see them gone… a one-euro stamp would have helped to bring everyone together to celebrate this momentous occasion.

But perhaps Britain is not the target market for this stamp. By sending Brexit stamps out to the rest of the world, I suspect Austria is trying to broadcast a more urgent message: We don’t know those guys! They’re not with us.

Incidentally, the Royal Mail has so far resisted issuing a Brexit stamp. The internet has been quick to fill the gap:

Search for “Brexit stamps” for more laughs, it’s worth it.

I do feel for Britons as the nation careers towards the end of the transition period on 31 December this year. At least last year’s election result put the wrangling beyond dispute, but I fear that in the long term, that will come to be of small consolation. Brexit was promulgated by charlatans and is built upon a deception perpetrated by a self-interested rich and powerful few. I wonder how many Leave voters may come to nurse regrets as they are turfed out of closing factories. I particularly feel for the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, where majorities in each voted to stay, but must now confront the ramifications of leaving. Britain now stumbles desperately back to the Commonwealth, deluding itself that a few trade deals with its former empire will magically outweigh slamming the door on the world’s largest economy.

If nothing else, Brexit stands as an eternal reminder to voters in functioning democracies never to assume the outcome of an election. Your vote counts. USE IT. (Ya hearing me, America?) You owe it not just to yourselves, but to your fellow readers of this blog who don’t have the luxury of a meaningful say in their nation’s affairs.

(Side note: this week brought news that the UK is appointing as a trade envoy the former short-lived Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. It’s been greeted with some mirth down under. It says much about Boris’s Britain that it hires a man who complained his way into power in between spruiking his policies to the women of Australia “as they do the ironing”, and whose chief achievements once in government were then to tear down effective climate reforms and reinstate knighthoods so he could award one to Prince Philip. There’s a forward thinker. Good luck.)

What’s that? Enough with the opinion, get back to the stamps? OK. It’s worth pointing out that Austria’s Brexit stamp overshadowed the release nine days earlier of another commemorating the 25th anniversary of Austria’s own accession to the EU. ‘Flags on stamps’ is one of those topical collections that I would love to pursue, but I know that once I start, I will never end. Flags and stamps are made for each other. This is a beautiful example. The merging of the two flags produces such an aesthetically satisfying confluence of the primary colours. (And some white. And some flutters.)

Austria 2020 25th Anniversary of joining the EU

Nice work, Austria, and congratulations on the 25 years. Danke for the laughs.

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14 thoughts on “Schnitz-canned! How Austria trolled Brexit Britain

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  1. Luckily I have both of these wonderful stamps in my collection, in mint condition and with special postmarks, and in real life they look even better. On the Brexit stamp the UK is printed with varnish, so if you hold the stamp in the right angle to the light it disappears, and on the anniversary stamp the stars are printed with gold foil.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just for the record, I live in Norn Iron and voted for BREXIT.
    Why would a forward looking progressive like me vote for the likes of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and the unlovely relics of the 1950s on the 19th hole at golf courses in England?
    Well its complicated.
    But I didnt have ONE vote in the Referendum…I had TWO votes.
    It was a certainty that Norn Iron (and Scotland) would be pro-EU so my vote did not really matter in a purely Norn Iron context. In the “K” context, I saw the vote as too close to call and therefore voted for Brexit. Why?
    Well it sets England on a collision course with Norn Iron and Scotland. Englands difficulty is Irelands opportunity. Simple as that. A large proportion of people in my neck of the woods dont see ourselves as British and consistently vote for (Irish) nationalist parties…in my case since 1970, so working my entire adult life for the “UK” to be dissolved …well it was a no brainer.
    We will have a border down the Irish Sea and I can live with that. I suspect many in Scotland are secretly pleased at the result. And I suspect a lot of Brexiteers did not really want to “win”……..they have spent the best part of 50 years blaming Europe for everything and the Brexiteers would have been happy with a 45-55% defeat and more blaming foreigners.
    I found the appointment of Abbott intriguing. He seems to be the love child of Edna Everidge and Robert Menzies.
    I was talking to an Australian guy on a train a year or so ago.
    He wasnt an anglo-phile.
    I thought we Irish held too many grudges (dont start me on the Famine!) but he had a long list of grievances….Gallipoli and Douglas Jardine and Bodyline Bowling.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. I’m a passionate non-brexiter. Long live the EU. As soon as these stamps cane out I had to buy one. Then a couple of weeks later I got a letter with one correctly post ally used on an eBay purchase!
    Brexit is a travesty and you describe the scenario very well. I just hope I can get my EU passport back very soon if the EU will let’s us rejoin.
    And yes America use your vote in November and think carefully which way you go so as not to fall foul of populism.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The first Austrian stamp I saw that had “Austria” rather than “Österreich” on it was the 2005 Heidi Klum Life Ball issue. It definitely made me doubt its legitimacy at first.

    Speaking as an American, I’ve never been more eager to use my vote than I am right now.

    Also speaking as an American, the U.S. “Overrun Countries” issue of 1943-44 has been my favorite exemplar of “Flags on Stamps” ever since I was a kid. (And that brings us back to Austria!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great issue. Sometimes when I see those stamps, I ponder what the world must have been going through at the time. I can hardly imagine any modern nation that would just plant another country’s flag smack bang in the middle of their stamps!


  5. Brexit was mainly voted for by working class northerners who saw no benefit in an increasingly undemocratic neoliberal globalist Empire, you wouldn’t find many on any golf course their to busy working for minimum wage.

    As for the stamp, hilarious but pointless bit like the EU. As a collector of European stamps I might be adding to my collection though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed your analogy there, Robert, but I dunno… ‘pointless’ is a bit harsh, isn’t it? The EU sure seems to have stopped major European nations from going to war with themselves every twenty years. 😃


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