In a particular scene from one of Britain's most beloved sitcoms 'Fawlty Towers,' the main character, Basil Fawlty, spends considerable time attempting to not insult a German family but ends up doing so in spectacular fashion. This moment was forever immortalised when Basil remarks 'You started it!' to which a German guest replies 'No we did not!' and Basil retorts 'Yes you did, you invaded Poland!'
Whilst part of a (terrific) comedy series, this particular scene demonstrates an attitude that many Britons have about dealing with Germany. In modern day Britain many people feel uneasy about criticising Germany as they fear that it will invariably lead to an awkward situation where 'The War' is mentioned and fragile egos are shattered.
This attitude and reticence to criticise Germany is something that we, as a nation, must seek to change – especially given Germany's less than stellar record in recent years.
Firstly let us look at the matter of NATO, despite running a balanced budget for the last five years Germany has failed to meet the 2% defence spending that NATO insists upon. In 2017 Germany managed a mere 1.19%, less than fifteen other countries including Romania, Albania and Croatia. This is a tenth-rate effort by Germany who, as the most populous country in the EU and the 5th largest economy in the world should not only be meeting its NATO 2% target but helping smaller nations to meet their targets as well. Germany's reluctance to commit to NATO and push for an EU army is a threat to NATO's dominance and stability.
More recently Germany again displayed a more selfish economic attitude by their building of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between herself and Russia, completely bypassing Central and Eastern Europe. This could have been a perfect opportunity to help economically benefit numerous countries in Eastern Europe as well as Germany and build better diplomatic relationships between East and West Europe – a type of 'Peace through purses' method. Instead Germany made an economically selfish decision which has only exacerbated relations between East and West Europe and was rightly criticised by many countries in Central and Eastern Europe and by President Trump's administration.
Germany's mismanagement of the migrant crisis has also exacerbated the already fraught relationships between East and West Europe. Notably the EU (of whose countries Germany is the most pro) offered Turkey a £4.7bn to assist them in dealing with the migrant crisis before underpaying them. The EU, under German instruction, then accepted 'Syrian' refugees and then attempted to force quotas on other European countries, again straining already damaged relationships.
Germany has also not exactly showered herself in glory following her intransigence regarding Britain's vote to leave the EU. Rather than trying to understand Britain's reasons for leaving and amending the EU accordingly, she has instead decided to batten down the hatches and push for an ever closer Union as quickly as possible. Though this is perhaps unsurprising given that the EU has served Germany particularly well, after all she is the largest trading partner of every country in the EU except Ireland. To those who claim that 'ever closer union' is not an end goal of the EU, simply look at the speech given by would-be German Chancellor Martin Schultz at the SPD's party conference in Berlin that called for the creation of a "United States of Europe" by 2025. He stated that a new constitution for Europe should be written and that any country that did not adopt it should be automatically kicked out of the EU.
As we leave the EU we will be at the forefront of a new liberal free trade renaissance and we should use this newfound independence and freedom to push back against German dominance in the continent.
In conclusion Britain must not absolve herself of European politics but should instead support our European NATO partners by opposing an EU army and pushing back against any attempt to force additional countries to adopt the Euro as their currency.