Monday 8 May 2017

Misunderestimating the British

Ignorance concerning foreigners is hardly rare or new.   Maps of Africa used to portray people with two heads, and the average American can't identify a single other nation on a map of the world (I may be, errrr, exaggerating about foreigners there ...).  It's never good for the smooth functioning of international dealings.

In this fog of know-nothing, perhaps Continental ignorance about the British is unremarkable.  But it's there all right, and always has been - mostly by way of disbelief that such a coarse, unserious, ill-educated, piss-taking drunken rabble with a bizarre legal system could ever amount to much (let alone being Top Nation for more than a century).  To take a small example: I once read a German music critic being appalled that classical music in the UK, both at concerts and on recordings, is performed by players who are frequently brought together ad hoc, effectively as studio musicians and invited orchestras, rehearsing only for a few days.  The results, he wrote, can never compare with those of a great Continental orchestra, the members of which are unchanging from year to year and who rehearse for months before a major engagement.  Well, they couldn't be as good, could they?  It stands to reason.

And despite the apparent a priori logic of his protectionist, subsidy-demanding 'guild' position, you know what - ?  He's utterly wrong.  We know you don't understand it (like you don't understand financial markets etc etc etc).  But there it is.  It shouldn't work - but it does.

Here's a more serious example, from some Dane called Joris Luyendijk.
Brexit Britain can no longer be considered a serious country
For over a year now, virtually all signs coming out of London suggest that Europeans are not just bidding farewell to an EU member state. They must also come to grips with a future in which their neighbours across the Channel and the North Sea are no longer predictable or rational. Britain’s reputation for reliability is simply not reconcilable with the presence of Boris Johnson in the cabinet. The country’s reputation for stable government cannot be squared with the impending Brexit-induced chaos and upheaval in Scotland and Northern Ireland ... EU leaders decided to leak the proceedings of their dinner on Sunday with May in order to warn their own public about how irrational Britain has become. How the country believes itself to have the upper hand in a negotiation with a group of nations seven times its own size. How it wants to be part of the single market while refusing to recognise the authority of the European court governing that market. And, most alarmingly, how badly informed May still is about the practical consequences both of Brexit and of a no-deal crash out of the EU ... There is no escaping it: under the leadership of Theresa May the United Kingdom can no longer be considered a serious country.
You may yet live to amend your assessment, Mr Joris.  If we keep sheltering you under our military umbrella, that is.



dearieme said...

"If we keep sheltering you under our military umbrella, that is." Which of course we shouldn't. Fat lot of use the Danes were in 1940.

Bill Quango MP said...

Nick: That is always our nuclear option. Nato membership.

We can cite France as an example of a country happy to be a part of European defence but not a part of Nato. we can say now we are outside the EU, thee really is no need for us to be part of land force Nato.

We really could as a way to remove blocjkages to Brexit, however unlikely it seems, threaten to leave Nato.

There we end up in a Sir Humphrey / Hacker: It’s a bluff.

But even though they probably certainly know that we probably wouldn’t leave Nato, they don’t certainly know that, although we probably wouldn’t, there is no probability that we certainly would!

Sebastian Weetabix said...

He's Dutch, isn't he?

Anyhow, I don't want to be in the single market. I don't want to be in the CFP, CAP, ESA, Euratom, REACH, the single European Sky, or under any of their rules or courts in any way shape or form. Customs co-operation is what we need and mutually low tariffs, that's all. And that isn't worth €100bn. Why pay to enjoy a trade deficit?

I begin to think Mr Varoufakis is right. Don't negotiate with them; they don't want a deal, they just want us paying in for as long as possible.

andrew said...

Are you sure his name is not Joris Bonson?

Same level of tosh, but not as well written and no humor.

CityUnslicker said...

Diddums to them. a hard brexit will feel good to the pro-Europeans though, it will feel re-assuring, it will make them feel powerful.

It will allow them to enjoy the cultural enrichment of their choice rather than the annoying practicality of the UK preaching about markets and worried about immigration etc.

They will be happy, maybe for a decade or more as the rot sets in. I can only imagine now what lunacy the EU is going to come out with now there is no British resistance and Macron installed in Paris - fat lot of good it ever does too.

dustybloke said...

So, leaving a dinner party in a huff is a major political tactic, eh?

And I bitterly resent the statement that we were rational in the EU sense, i.e., submissive to German autocracy.

But yes, I do agree that Germany and France will cut off their noses to spite their face in the negotiations, but if you thought we didn't realise that EU stance would be a consequence of Brexit you are morons. Although I still think the German car industry will have a word in Merkel's ear about some tariffs...

Anonymous said...

He has a point - umbrellas or not.

For over a century, Germany has been attempting to exert it's influence over mainland Europe one way or another. We've come to blows about it twice, with the second one being a close run thing were it not for us US and Soviet friends. Germany has continued to strive to exert influence post war and reunification was a means to an end despite the cost.

We no longer have the means or the willingness to rebut German aspirations so in a final act of confirmation that we no longer matter, we've waived goodbye to Europe and are wandering the world looking for new partners.

Sad isn't it.

andrew said...


Post hard brexit (if it should be the case)
I would be unsurprised if the german car industry opened some (more) factories here.
After all, if you make the car here, how can there be a tariff.

Much of the value of a car is not the aluminium / steel / plastic but the ip in the design/software.

Anonymous said...

Have no doubt the future will be decided by Merkel and May will have to kowtow to her.

Deliciously ironic and she must be looking forward to it. Here have a factory or two on our terms.

Meanwhile Fox who claimed the world was our oyster if only we left the EU is very quiet - and if the logic was that we didn't need Europe as it could be replaced then why is a good deal for Britain in Europe so important now.

We're being played. If May ends up with good majority and a bad deal, the knives will be out for her. At the end of the day, it's not about sovereignty but hard cash as all Capitalist at work every day know,

Anonymous said...

" I can only imagine now what lunacy the EU is going to come out with"

I can imagine a European army, navy and air force, all hugely expensive. They will then be able to prevent any other states from leaving.

Remember that the American civil war was basically about a Dixiexit.

Don Cox

Anon said...

As one of Atlas Shrugged's characters keeps saying: check your premises.

Nobody sensible (so I exclude Sir Keir Gruppen-Starmer) has suggested that we want to stay in the single market without submitting to the rules of the single market.

In the run-up to the UK GE things are being made to look dire for the UK electorate, but as Nick and others point out it is unlikely to work in persuading the cantankerous Brits to toe the line. Things may change post-September when the sensible Mittelstand types can reassert their influence.

mike fowle said...

"How the country believes itself to have the upper hand in a negotiation with a group of nations seven times its own size."

And comprising just 7% of the world's population. The sex and travel option beckons.

Anonymous said...

anon 1.23 does indeed have a point - comparing Germany (of two or three years ago, anyway) and Japan to the UK 70 years after the last unpleasantness, a Martian whose history books stopped in 1939 would probably assume that the Axis had won.

On the other hand, Denmark seems to be putting up much stiffer resistance to foreign invasion than she did in 1940, whereas the UK decline on that front's been catastrophic.

(I see the German Chancellor has warmly welcomed the new Petain administration in France - indeed the whole of (occupied) Europe is rejoicing that they didn't choose that awful xenophobe de Gaulle)

Anonymous said...

Anonymouses 1.23pm and 2.25pm make a few good points, but miss the fact that we were hardly stopping the Germans from dominating Europe as we were, because we're not in the Euro - that takes us away from the centre of things. And if we're in a supplicant position vis-a-vis the squareheads then it's because our policy towards the EU was so risibly inflexible and blinkered. No contingency plan for leaving at any stage.

And, no, it isn't about hard cash over sovereignty, on this one occasion. Our alternatives were to be second class non-Euro members (which is the fate of the remaining Scandis) or to drink the kool-aid and go full Europe.

APL said...

Sebastian Weetabix: "I don't want to be in the single market. I don't want to be in the CFP, CAP, ESA, Euratom, REACH, the single European Sky .."

Just off topic and en passent.

You mention ESA, it's been around since 1975 ( 42 years ). And it's still slinging rockets into space and throwing them away.

Spacex, by comparison, has gone from nowhere, to landing it's first stage rocket back on the launch pad within fifteen years - ever thrown a pencil up into the air and had it land on its end? - then reused it for another launch.

Anonymous said...

"because we're not in the Euro - that takes us away from the centre of things"

Yea, Britain, the fifth largest economy in the world with one of the three major financial centres in the world is 'away from the centre of things' because we're not in the Euro.

That's the currency that's crucifying Greece.

Anonymous said...

Difficult to keep track of my fellow Anonymice. The eurofanatics were economically wrong but politically right in their arguments re the Euro. It's an economic disaster, but not being in it while being in the EU makes us a bit-part player, a sleeping partner who provides much needed funds but has no say.

E-K said...

Kraftwerk were a very efficient pop group.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

apropos the ESA... that they have a launch capability at all is down to the idiocy of the British government giving them the Black Arrow design for nothing. In classic Whitehall fashion, when we had Black Arrow working (at great cost) the USA via NASA offered to launch British payloads for nothing. Oxbridge's finest therefore cancelled the programme. Once that was safely done the US withdrew its offer. The treasury not being willing to restart the programme, the technology was given away to what became the ESA (essentially France under an EEC cloak).

To this day we are the only country to achieve satellite launch capability and then give it up. Just think how many untold billions in economic activity we missed out on thanks to that decision. You can see in present events how much goodwill we garnered by being good little Europeans.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, SW - didn't know about Black Arrow. What we've thrown away since the 50s.I see the French,Japanese and Mao's China were all ahead of us in launching satellites though.

"To this day we are the only country to achieve satellite launch capability and then give it up."

I'd imagine we're also the first country to design and build nuclear power stations then give that capability up.

(ND - when we talk of "the British", we are not the people of 1945 or even 1975).

Steven_L said...

Misunderestimating? Surely that's a Bushism, not a word?

L fairfax said...

I think we should make clear to them, any attempt to punish them would mean they would be on their own with Putin.

Anonymous said...


For some reason, we're the major provocoteur to Putin and have been for about 10+ years. More hawkish than the Yanks, even. I do sometimes wonder what the chuff our FCO is up to.