We're not Germanophobes, but neither are we all Europhiles
Germanophobia shouldn’t exist in the UK. What must happen though is a robust critique of any new plans, wherever they come from, or else ‘Eurogeddon’ may not be long off
Europeans are in agreement about one thing at least, namely the fact that by this time next year, the European Union will not look the same as it does now.
Huge debates are taking place across European capitals. In London, the Government wants to safeguard the City of London from the onslaught of the proposed Tobin tax. In Paris and Berlin, agreement is being sought to find a way through the eurozone crisis in time for a French Presidential election in the spring of 2012 and German elections in 2013.
With this backdrop, le Figaro, a centre-right French newspaper, this morning ran a headline “La germanaphobie monte au Royaume-Uni” (German phobia on the rise in the UK). The reasons the Figaro cite for this rise in Germanophobia is a Nigel Farage video on Youtube, and an article by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in which he says, “a European Economic Government would be led by Germany.”
The video they cited of Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party has been watched by hundreds of thousands of people. However given the fact that Mr. Farage appeared on Fox News in the United States, the profile of his “anti-German” speech was given a much larger audience than it otherwise would have received, and many of them were Americans, not British.
The Mayor of London’s comments simply convey a truth, which is that a dominant economic powerhouse, like Germany, would not be able to do anything other than lead from the front if Economic governance takes hold in the EU.
What I find interesting about a mainstream French newspaper running a story about rising anti-German feeling in the UK, is an ignorance of understanding of the current situation.
According to the 2001 Census, 266,000 German born people were registered as living in the UK, making them the fourth largest foreign born group after the Irish, Indians and Pakistanis. Moreover, there are very few in the UK who hold strong wartime grudges and illusions about the Germans, and thank goodness for that.
Any robust arguments that have been had about Germans within political circles have been in the context of the eurozone, and quite right that this should be scrutinised in full.
As the Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan said at the Royal Geographic Society earlier in the year, many would welcome a return of German patriotism. After all, they are a country who have been defeated, dishonoured, occupied, ravaged by war and partitioned, and yet have dedicated themselves to forming a stable EU which many of their neighbouring European partners have prospered from (until recently at least).
The article in the Figaro also offers an insight into the lack of French awareness of what the EU’s problems actually are.
The EU is effectively designed to be a Napoleonic bureaucracy, led from a central bureaucratic institution. Would MEPs need to keep on trekking to Strasbourg and spending billions of Euros if it wasn’t designed in the French ideal?
Let us not forget either, one of the founding fathers of the European movement. Jean Monnet, a French civil servant said at the very beginning:
"Europe's nations should be guided towards the super-state without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation."
Although huge debates must be held, and people across Europe need to be consulted if powers are going to be centralised further, it is interesting to look at some of the huge anomalies in European perceptions.
However, as we go through a period of huge movement and change, we must reflect back on where this movement developed and came from. Germanophobia shouldn’t exist in the UK, nor should it anywhere else in Europe. What must happen though is a robust critique of any new plans, wherever they come from, because without a serious decision being taken, ‘Eurogeddon’ may not be long off.
Anthony Pickles is a Parliamentary researcher and a Conservative activist. He tweets at @antpickles
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