Quaint, lovable and freedom-loving
A personal retrospective view to better understand our British friends
Unpublished Letter to the Editor, January 2017
The year 2016 presented some unpleasant surprises to Europe. Brexit was one of them. If you believe the official figures then 51.9 percent of the British voted for Brexit and 48.1 percent against it. The two camps of the backers and opponents of Brexit would therefore not be too far apart. But only those who do not understand the very soul of the British people will be content with these numbers. The British have never felt comfortable in the EU. This is part of their "natural DNA". And just like the average people of any nation cannot simply over night exchange their own language for another language, the British cannot easily replace their frame of mind, which has developed over many centuries. Unlike many other European countries Britain has not been subjected to any radical political and social upheaval for a very long time. This is why the mental state of the British may have become so firmly established that it naturally continues to shapes their way of thinking and their identity. Those who know the British well know that the group of those who felt a strong natural desire to leave the EU was much larger than the official figures of the referendum suggest.
Encouraged by our age of post-truth I began to work out my own figures, which of course are not scientifically or statistically substantiated. Here I simply rely on my 45 years of experience with the British. My gut feeling very spontaneously told me that at least two-thirds of the British people must have felt something positive about leaving the EU. When I realized that two-thirds is no more than 67 percent, I corrected my first assumption. I now claim that the proportion of Brits, who naturally feel there is something positive about Brexit, is well above 70 percent. (1)
Many of you may now ask: "Why was this not reflected in the outcome of the referendum?" To understand this one needs to know that the British have always been very rational people. It was rational thinking that once made the British join the EU. They did so for rational economic reasons, not because they were staunch supporters of the EU by nature. The British have now been living with the painful contradictions that resulted from their decision to join the EU for more than 40 years. Those who know the British well know that they have well and truly endured these contradictions for all that time. This is difficult to understand, especially for citizens of a nation that after the Second World War had longed to be welcomed back into the European community in order to gain a new identity within it.
David Cameron’s decision to call for a referendum has literary coerced the British people to openly deal with the contradictions the British nation has been exposed to ever since joining the EU. In the decision-making process of the referendum – very much as in a medieval morality play - the individual British voter was virtually forced to act out the role of the central figure of the Brexit-play. And like the devil and good angel that act on the central figure of a medieval morality play, the forces of economic common sense on the one side and the unbridled British urge for independence on the other side were ruthlessly acting on the minds of British voters. These two forces, however, can hardly be brought into line under the present circumstances in Great Britain.
At this point, I dare to make a second statement, although I am not so sure about the absolute figures as in my first statement: in my opinion, if one adds up the numbers of the convinced British EU supporters on the one side and those who are against the EU but who would have stayed in the EU for economic reasons on the other side, we would get most certainly a figure that is well over 50 percent in favour of the EU. I estimate the number of reason-oriented Brits so high that for both groups together I think a figure between 55 and 65 percent is quite realistic.
But why did this not show up in the referendum?
In the heated atmosphere of the referendum, in the confusion of feelings between economic rationality and the natural British urge for independence, too many of the reason-orientated English people, who had never felt comfortable in the EU, simply miscalculated the situation. Even though they wanted to stay in the EU for economic reasons it was most certainly in their interest that this was achieved by only a small margin. So most probably too many of them were influenced by the forecasts that were published immediately before the referendum. Sadly their strategy did not work out. Now we all have to live with the result and try to make the best of it.
At this point let us also consider the special case of Scotland. The Scots are British people through and through, even if they set themselves apart from their Anglo-Saxon neighbours with more vehemence than the Bavarians from the rest of Germany. The referendum on Scotland's independence was not that long ago. In that referendum, the Scots lived through the same sufferings that the English were to face only two years later. The Scots also had to decide whether they wanted to follow their hearts or their economic reason. They followed with a majority of 55 percent economic rationality. Once they had decided to follow economic reason there would have been little point in reversing their rational decision two years later by voting for Brexit. Besides, opting for Brexit would have bound the Scots to the English in a way that would not have been advantageous from the Scottish point of view. However, too close a bond with the EU is not the solution for them either. The situation remains tricky.
I am convinced that shortly after the referendum of 23rd June 2016, the supporters and opponents of Brexit were spiritually reunited for some time in the hope that Brexit would not have too great a negative economic impact on Britain. The British value their independence very much and are willing to pay a price for it. However, there are also limits to that, because in the end, as always, the question arises as to who has to pay the actual price within society. And this, in my opinion, is the real issue for the coming years. There is a social problem in Great Britain that has received little attention by the German public, the possible effects of which are difficult to assess. But that is a different matter to be dealt with. Another important matter in this context is Anglo-German relation itself. It should be borne in mind that the British often say Brussels and the EU, but they really mean Berlin and Germany.
Given the complexity of the situation, I can only advise any responsible German to take a closer look and treat the British with the same understanding and sensitivity with which they once treated Germany and the Germans in difficult times. Despite all the differences, the British are much closer to us than many other nations.
(1) My gut feeling more or less was confirmed by the figures given by Prof. Matthew Goodwin in the final part (45 minutes f.) of the youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfAKL7BeXxA (published 05|04|2017)
Rainer Triller - Bonn, Januar 2017
Brexit: A continental view worthy of note
Radosław Sikorski is a senior Polish politician and journalist. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs in Donald Tusk's cabinet between 2007 and 2014. He previously served as Deputy Minister of National Defense (1992), Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (1998–2001) and Minister of National Defense (2005–2007).
From the third lecture in the post-Brexit lecture series at the
University of Greenwich
European Union - The Empire Britain has refused to rule
Brexit: A British view worthy of note
Please help us to understand you!
My dear British friends soon your country will be leaving the EU. I believe there are still too many people on the Continent who do not really understand why. After your country has been a member of the EU for more than 45 years it might be considered an act of courtesy to give those people of Europe who are still looking for a comprehensible answer a coherent explanation. So if you know of an internet link to an article or youtube video that explains the British point of view to us in a plausible way I would be only too happy to share that link with the readers of my website. Please send that link to firstname.lastname@example.org
„I am British“
Why Brexit happened -- and what to do next | Alexander Betts
Brexit: The motivation behind it?
Fintan O'Toole: Brexit: Ireland and the English Question
Giving England the Blues
The English waved the Union Jack
till Scotland took its colour back,
for just this nation has the blue
that gives that flag the proper hue.
A plain white drape, a cross quite gory
that’s England’s flag stripped of its glory.
The Literary Battle of Britain, p. 139
A sober British analysis
Prof. Matthew Goodwin - Why Britain Voted to Leave the EU
and what it Means
Chatham House Primer: The Vote for Brexit
Brexit: The German factor
The German Elephant in the Brexit-Room
If we look at the whole events around Brexit, we might get the impression that all this has nothing to do with Germany. Yet the ambivalent relationship that the British have with Germany is a significant reason why the British nation has so relentlessly driven itself into Brexit. Many people, especially in Germany, may read these lines in disbelief, because after all, we do not really hear of anyone who blames Germany in any way for Brexit. Even the British themselves do not seem to express such an absurd idea. But things are again more intricate than one might think. To understand this, we have to dig deeper into the psyche of the British nation.
In order to avoid misunderstandings, it must first of all be stressed that the following considerations do not call into question the friendly relations that the British and Germans have long since had and maintained. These very personal relationships in different areas and at different levels continue to be untarnished. Anyone who goes to the UK or who elsewhere talks to British people can see for themselves. However, in the context of Brexit it is important to consider the way the British people see Germany as a national body and as a political and economic factor. The feelings that result from this perception are inevitably reflected in their national decisions.
If we want to grasp the psychological structures of the British view of Germany in depth, we must look back at some important historical developments and events of the last 150 years.
In 1871 when a new German Empire was created under Prussian supremacy, the united German countries developed into a serious competitor for Great Britain. This competition led to rivalries that culminated in the antagonism of the First World War. During the First World War the British war propaganda degraded the German opponents very successfully to "Huns" and began thereby to establish in the consciousness of their own population a dull feeling against everything, which is German. Germany herself has actively contributed to the fact that this feeling solidified and subconsciously still lingers on in the minds of British people. All the fears, misgivings and negative prejudices of the British towards Germany were sustainably confirmed and intensified by the groundless German air raids at the beginning of the Second World War, which were solely aimed at subduing Great Britain. It should therefore not surprise anyone that the British look back with pride on the time when they successfully withstood the German threat through a joined national effort, and that they now confidently pass on this spirit of their recent past to future generations. It is inevitable that in this context Germany is assigned a very specific role.
But the political and social situation in Germany has changed for the better in many ways in bygone decades. This has not gone unnoticed by the British, for they have contributed to this positive development. At times Germany even developed into a European paragon of good behavior. However, this does not entirely fit into the conventional picture the British have of Germany. In addition, the obvious economic success of Germany is not only admired by the British in their somewhat restrained manner, it also arouses old fears of German dominance. As the economic performance of a country automatically gives more clout to its political influence, Britain inevitably sees the economic development in Germany as a constant challenge to its own role in Europe. Britain has always seen herself as a nation that wants to progress and lead the way. It has never fitted into the British self-image to see herself as a junior partner to other nations, and most certainly not to Germany!
It is a truism that there are different political currents in each country. Among them there are always those of the so-called hardliners. In the UK there is a small group of inveterate traditionalists that has always been very reluctant to be forced into a political system that is naturally favoured by the Germans as a result of their history and that is economically dominated – so they say – by Germany. This hard core of British traditionalists also seems to be well connected to the British tabloids, which shape the minds of broad sections of the British population. This is how over the years the specific ideas and desires of these traditionalists constantly trickled down to the masses and began to mix with old prejudices, half-truths and the experience of current social problems and dissatisfaction. At a later stage these elements began to blend with the awareness of the hard facts of economic and political realities, adding thus during the course of the referendum and Brexit negotiations to the emotional overall social process that is presently pushing British society along and further dividing it.
The impact of the political and economic developments in the UK is too significant for Europe and Germany to simply stand by. This is why the general German public should understand in what way Germany influences this process.
The Germans have always experience the British as genuinely warm, open and hospitable people, and so it would never occur to them that British people might make a distinction between them as German individuals on the one hand and their potentially dominant state and their government on the other hand.
Neil MacGregor, the former director of the British Museum and founding director of the new Humbold-Forum in Berlin, once said: “Germany is steeped in a terrible pro-British feeling.” This widespread sentiment seems to be another reason that prevents many Germans from fully understanding the situation in Britain.
However, I occasionally wonder if the general British public has even been remotely aware of the intensity of this pro-British feeling of the Germans.
Rainer Triller - December 2018
Afraid of Germany?
What is Germany's role in Europe? This also depends on Europe’s perception of Germany. The historian Andreas Rödder talks on WDR 5 about Germany’s self-image and the images other countries have of Germany and how these images came about.
For Andreas Rödder’s radio interview click here:
The historian Andreas Rödder asks in his current book: "Who is afraid of Germany?". His answer is: Everybody. For in the perception of its European neighbours in the West as well as in the East Germany is seen as dominant, strong and often claiming a leading position. This assessment of other European countries in turn is far from the role in which the Germans see themselves.
Getting to grips with the historical connections between stereotypical perception of others and oneself is, for Andreas Rödder, an important step towards better controlling future political processes at European level. For, he says, "such stereotypes can be reactivated at any time". According to Mr Rödder, politicians in all countries would be well advised to be aware of the effectiveness of such ideas - as a precondition for a European process that ultimately benefits Europe as a whole, as well as individual European states.
German ambassador: second world war image of Britain has fed Euroscepticism
Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor
Exclusive: Peter Ammon says some Brexiters were motivated by a sense of national identity built around UK standing alone
[Peter Ammon] described the perception that Germany dominates the EU as “a horrible story”.
“When I tell people in Germany I am confronted by this narrative occasionally in public debates they say: ‘This cannot be true. You are joking. This cannot be true. That is absurd,’” he said.
For centuries Britain has been a beacon of the western world - politically and economically. Even the leading figures of the French Revolution closely studied the advantages of the British Parliamentarian System and learnt from it. German industry largely profited from the glorious achievements of the British Industrial Revolution and turned them into their own success. But where does this leave Britain?
Britain does not need to hide behind the states it has given more to than it has ever been properly credited for. Certainly Britain can do better than this!
Yet don’t be duped by those political leaders who want to take Britain out of the EU. They are simply too weak and faint-hearted to take on the many backward orientated states of the EU and consequently will not be strong enough to steer their own country through the even rougher waters of our present turbulent world.
A Britain that is not strong enough to firmly take the lead within the EU is not strong enough to survive on its own in our rapidly changing world.
It is men like Boris Jonson who should not chicken out of the EU. They should instead use their brilliant brains to put Britain at the head of the European Union by firmly voicing their outstanding plans for a better future for the European people. They should do this from inside the European institutions in order to convince the European people by strong arguments supporting democratic processes that are so typical of your country, thereby winning the European people over to your side!
However, for once it is not your “leaders” who decide on your future. This one time it will be you, the British people, who determine the future course of your country.
So think, before you face the brink, before you vote!
Say “Ja” to Dexit
… and Germany will be
an Island of Bliss!
THIS is our last chance to remove ourselves from the
undemocratic Brussels machine ... and it's time
to take it
An interview with German Euro-sceptic
Michael Zoff MdB
The Notorious Rhyner
- Herr Zoff you have been campaigning for a long time for Germany to leave the EU. You did this as a part time politician and responsible citizen of your country. Now that the German referendum is very shortly going to take place can you explain to us your particular point of view?
“Yes, I believe we should take back control of our national economy. Germany would be better off if it trusted the leaders of its own country, accountable people who would spend the money in the interest of the German people. One of the things with the leaders of foreign countries is that they would never accept a curtailment of their sovereignty in the way they have curtailed German sovereignty over many decades. Don’t pay any attention to what foreign politicians say, pay attention to what they do. The truth is that the American president, for example, would never accept a court in Mexico decreeing what the law in the United States should be. I am not asking the German public to trust me, I am asking the German public to trust themselves. I am asking them to take back control of their destiny from those organizations that are distant, unaccountable and elitist. I have faith in the German people to take the right decisions.
Those who say we should stay in the EU have a vested interest. The majority of the German people are suffering from our membership in the European Union. Their wages are lower than they could be. The European Union depresses employment and destroys jobs. The EU has financially hollowed out communities across our country, has contributed to lower salaries for working people and has also insured that young people in our country don’t have the job opportunities they could have if we were out of the EU.
A majority of the German population is suffering from the EU. Every year we give billions of Euros to the EU, billions of Euros we should be spending here. German taxpayers are handing money over to the EU that is spent on Jean Claude Jucker’s expense account, his private jet rather than it being spent on our health system and our priorities. I don’t blame all the problems of Germany on the EU, but every week we send more than 450 million Euros to Brussels. In other words we don’t have control of that money. There are billions of Euros we send to the EU every year and as the institute of fiscal studies has pointed out if we took that money back we could spend it on our own interests. Some of the Euros that go to the EU may be spent on our behalf, but this is done by people – and you can’t deny that – who are unaccountable, unelected and who we can’t get rid of. I think we, the German politicians - eh, I beg your pardon - the ordinary people of Germany should take back control of that money.
We should not be on the side of the undeserving rich we should be on the side of the ordinary people. In the European Union we have a market that is rigged in favour of the rich and stacked against the poor. I think that is wrong.
Outside the EU we can become richer, safer and free at long last to forge our own destiny — as other great democracies already do. If we stay, Germany will be engulfed in a few short years by this relentlessly growing monster called the European Union. For all Merkel’s witless assurances, our powers and values WILL be further eroded. Staying in will be worse for immigration, worse for jobs, worse for wages and worse for our way of life. Greece is bankrupt. Italy is in danger of going the same way, with even more disastrous consequences. In Spain, 45 per cent of those under 25 are out of work. And numerous even poorer and worse-governed countries are now joining the EU. It’s time for us to leave!
We are a strong country and we will see our way through. The day after the Dexit we can pass legislation which would limit the power of the European court and parliament in our country. We would again have the ultimate say about our laws. I think we should say to them, I am sorry you have had your day, unelected unaccountable elites I am afraid it’s time to say you are fired. We are taking back control.
Leaving the EU means we will reassert our sovereignty — embracing a future as a self-governing, powerful nation envied by all. A vote for leave is a vote for a better Germany.
- Thank you very much, Herr Zoff.
Satirical text almost literally inspired by:
and skyNEWS interview with the Lord Chancellor, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, MP.
Best of Enemies
What the British really think about the Germans
mit deutschen Untertiteln
Was Briten wirklich über Deutsche denken
Aus Feinden werden Liebende
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Krieg der Autos - Best of Enemies
Die Zukunft der Energie - Best of Enemies
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