Germans united in regret over Britain's EU stance

 

Watch Mark Urban's full report on what Germans think of Britain's relationship with the European Union

HANNOVER, GERMANY: At a campaign gathering held by Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU) a garrulous man slapped me on the shoulder and asked, "How does this compare with your Conservative Party?" It was a knowing question, delivered with wink.

The CDU drive to get their man, David McAllister, re-elected to run the state government of Lower Saxony, is well funded, confident (despite the closeness of opinion polls) and united on the question of Europe.

There is no real dissent across the German political spectrum on the issues of integrating the European Union (EU) more closely, apart from on the extreme right.

Indeed talking to people across northern Germany during three days of filming, it is apparent that there is a broad degree of consensus both on the EU and on Britain's position within it - from the CDU election event we attended, to the floor of the Sennheiser microphone factory or from the Hamburg students' union.

Firstly, people express regret that, faced with the faltering of Germany's traditional EU partnership with France (socialist President Francois Hollande is too much the tax and spend type for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU), that it is not possible to make common cause with the UK in the council chambers of Brussels.

Start Quote

If we agree we will have a blueprint and next, for example, Poland or other countries will demand the same and this will be a first step in the melting down on the whole union”

End Quote Ralph Brinkhaus German MP on threat of Britain renegotiating EU position

From Ralph Brinkhaus, a local member of the German parliament, the Bundestag, to Christine Lemster, a chemistry student at Hamburg University, we heard a similar refrain - the UK and Germany ought to be natural allies, and it is too bad that they cannot unite around EU issues.

The second issue on which there appears to be wide agreement is that Germany opposes the type of renegotiation of membership terms or competencies that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has talked about.

We have heard the apparent British threat to block other EU business unless its agenda is met described as "blackmail" by the head of the Bundestag Europe committee, Gunther Krichbaum, and by Cornelia Fuchs, former London correspondent for Stern magazine, as something that will soon exhaust the patience of ordinary Germans as well as their government.

"It's starting to get on people's nerves… there are already people who say 'if they don't want to be here they should get out'," Ms Fuchs told Newsnight.

The last topic where the Germans offer Tory Eurosceptics cold comfort is on their idea that Britain, even if it actually left the EU, could negotiate the same type of free trade arrangement with it that Norway or Switzerland have.

We went to the Sennheiser audio plant near Hanover; where something like 10% of their worldwide sales are made in the UK, to canvass their view on this:

"I know how complicated it is to negotiate", said board member Volker Bertels, referring to Switzerland's long discussions over the terms of access to the European market, adding that in the case of the UK, "we all need to be careful about putting up additional obstacles".

Like many German producers, there is a worry that market share might be lost during a long period of uncertainty about access to the UK.

At the heart of the anxiety expressed by German politicians is a fear that British renegotiation could eat up a lot of time at EU meetings at a moment when voters would prefer a focus on economic recovery and that even if ultimately successful, such talks could set a grim portent for Europe more widely.

"If we agree we will have a blueprint," said the CDU MP Mr Brinkhaus, "and next, for example, Poland or other countries will demand the same and this will be a first step in the melting down on the whole union".

 
Mark Urban, Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight Article written by Mark Urban Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, BBC Newsnight

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 914.

    A recent German poll related to allowing Brussels to increase control of German finances resulted in hundreds of thousands of votes against.
    This has not been reported in UK press.
    We need far more truthful reporting of what is happening across Europe.
    There is far too much suppression of the opinions and attitudes of the real people of Europe.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 913.

    The only way to resolve this whole EU / UK issue is to have town hall events, using a combination of local radio, Press, TV & internet, along with National TV Radio & Press reporting, with open questions, not pre-screed ones, with both local and national experts on History, Politics, the Economy and so on present at all meetings, and all the media to sign a understanding to publish the truth.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 912.

    UK used to have the Commonwealth which now represent major devel opportunities,but that bridge was burnt.Germany is correct in pressuring UK to make up it's mind.While they stall, UK is persuing exclusive alliances with Australia, New Zealand & Canada, ironically omitting US which is also persuing similar with Pacific rim. It is safe to presume some estb treaties/agreements will be discarded.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 911.

    Me and my rival chippy sponsor the local orphans jogging club. She donates a bit more than me so she chooses the shirts and gets her chippy logo on the front. Mine is on the shoulder. But she can't afford to buy all the shirts So when I said I wanted to choose the shirts or I would stop sponsoring the club she started telling everyone how great my chippy is, something she's never done before.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 910.

    @906 (2) As for listening to Sarrazin, I've read his book "Europa braucht den Euro nicht"; by no means an easy read unless you enjoy dry figures and statistics, but it makes sense and he backs his statements with facts. So far he has been demonized for daring to state his opinion which is not considered "politically correct", but nobody has been able to refute him yet on a factual basis.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 909.

    @906 I doubt whether many Germans have even heard of the Rt. Hon. Enoch Powell, let alone his "Rivers of Blood" speech....... so it is not very likely that Germans refer to him as their Enoch Powell.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 908.

    "...Britain, even if it actually left the EU, could negotiate the same type of free trade arrangement with it that Norway or Switzerland have."

    We just don't need that sort of arrangement. We have the WTO and NATO.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 907.

    "It's starting to get on people's nerves… there are already people who say 'if they don't want to be here they should get out'," Ms Fuchs told Newsnight.

    EUp: Well please help us to get out then! Start campaigning for us to have an in/out referendum.

    Germans! Support UKIP!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 906.

    @904 D Bumstead, what you say about Thilo Sarrazin is correct but I'm surprised you want to listen to him. Regarding foreigners he is also known as the Enoch Powell of Germany.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 905.

    Germany is the only Western Econ which adjusted to BRICS.UK is stuck in Mil mentality to a Pol/Econ dilemma,and while they squabble,China is moving from Export to Consumer Econ leaving them farther behind.
    My prediction is that China will again evolve to Domestic Consumer/Export Econ by splitting into at least 4 Competing Econ Zones, each bigger than US, and will primarily Trade for Resources.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 904.

    @902 Disagree. Germany exports successfully because it makes quality products. Germany does not need the euro, as Thilo Sarrazin convincingly demonstrates in his recent book "Europa braucht den Euro nicht" (Europe does not need the euro). In case you don't know, Sarrazin is a prominent member of the SPD (Soc. Democrats) and also a member of the board of the Bundesbank. Euro = disaster for all.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 903.

    @ 247

    The worst country? oh what utter rubbish. Im from Italy,a country that is like a feudal system,and cares only for the rich male elderly population. What 6 countries were they? I highly doubt Greece and Spain were two of them. And if you hate it so much,why are you still here. Get off your backside and do something rather than doomsaying!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 902.

    @900 D Bumstead, sorry to tell you that 895 Little_Old_Me is correct. Germany exports to USA, Canada, China, Russia, Japan and many others because Germany benefit from the low value of the Euro.The value of the Euro is kept low because Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are also in the Euro.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 901.

    The Germans only "regret" over the UK was that we didn't join the Euro. Then they could have taken advantage of our economy like they have the rest of Europe.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 900.

    @895 You seem to forget that in the 50s/60s/70s the DM was regularly REvalued while Fr. Franc, It. Lira and others were DEvalued. Yet the German economy remained the strongest, German products still sold well. Germany would do well without euro; introducing euro was not in Germany's interest, given the huge amount of money Germany has been forced to put in bailouts- which is money down the drain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 899.

    Re: 879.
    Trout Mask Replica


    Nearly 80% of the UK's laws are made in Brussels or Strasbourg

    "That's complete nonsense. http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP10-62"

    Any UK law can be overturned by Brussels or Strasbourg in the UK's courts if it conflicts.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 898.

    @894 The Bloke, immigrants flock to Germany, France, Holland, Sweden and even Spain and others. Immigrants go to where their friends and family are and the ones that come to the UK know they can get handouts from day 1.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 897.

    I know that some of you like nothing more than a good EU bashing, in fact there is part of the EU a disagree with, but unless you know your history making snap judgements on issues like the EHRC is pointless, as we British wrote ¾ of it, after the horrific events of WW2, so please, please use your heads, as some of the comments relate to non-EU matters of fact or Legal; Sine qua non.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 896.

    @893 Bill Walker, your German friends are right at this moment. They don't want to be a paymaster for Southern Europe but this state has only lasted for the last 3 or 4 years and it was partly Germany's fault anyway. Given the chance to remember Germans know this will end in a few more years and EU benefits will then return to what they have been since the 1950's.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 895.

    893.Bill Walker


    The only reason Germany can afford to be the pay master is because they are the Euro's big benficaries....

    ...without PIGS economies keeping the exchange rate artifically low the German currency would rise so high hardly anyone would be able to buy German goods.....

    ....their strength also keeps the PIGS' exchange uncompetitively high for them.....

 

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