Seeing this tweet heartened me a lot this morning:
Tired, but excited on the way to London.
— Terry Reintke (@TerryReintke) October 20, 2018
That’s the spirit!
And Terry (on the left) is a German Green MEP, and Sibylle (on the right) is one of the speakers of the German Greens’ EU Policy Committee (BAG-Europa) on their way to the People’s Vote march in London.
Why is this noteworthy?
Because this week an article entitled “Wie sich eine Nation zum Trottel macht” (“Watching a country make a fool of itself” – full translation from the German here) appeared in Spiegel, and was widely shared. It makes the typical points about British insularity, constitutional superiority, and drippy leaking homes. And importantly and wrongly conflates the behaviour of the British government with that of the British people. This retort from Steve Peers is about right.
The week before the satire television programme Heute Show took a similar line with a Brexit sketch, subtitled here:
Welke’s part about Boris Johnson is amusing, but the latter part of the sketch just rolls out tired old stereotypes about the UK – beer you can cut with a knife and fork. Seriously? That’s about as tired as a stereotype as calling all Germans Nazis.
Essentially Britain did not become a bad country overnight. It has always been – like many countries – a bundle of contradictions and differences.
It’s generally the case however that the German political and media elite only saw the nice bits.
They went for weekend trips to London, to Oxford, they visited Stonehenge or Brighton. They did not go to Ebbw Vale, to Sunderland or Preston. They see the wealth and diversity of London, not the anti-depressant use in towns like Blackpool. Add to that the widespread misconceptions about the behaviour of UK political parties, and a still sort of unfathomable shock about how much the Leave campaign lied to win the referendum for their side, and you have a heady mix.
So please by all means be tough to Theresa May. By all means point out the chronic contradictions in the UK government’s positions. And do also defend the EU above all.
But please don’t push away the UK as a country, do not push away its people. Do not use the tired old prejudices befitting of the UK tabloids that were one of the reasons Britain voted to leave the EU in the first place.
Today something close to a million people will be marching in London to demand that the UK stays in the EU, and 48% of the population – despite the campaign lies and the media barrage – voted to stay in the EU. Those people marching are disgusted at their government as well. And even a slew of pro-Brexit people are furious at Theresa May. Britain might have foolish politicians, but at least half of its people have not lost their heads.
This argument over Britain’s future is far from solved. And Anglophobia is in no way going to help solve it. Whether Britain leaves or not in the end, the EU is still going to have to deal with it. Schadenfreude towards the UK’s politicians, sure. But leave the negative prejudice behind please.