Time travelling in France

Over the bank holiday week-end I took a couple of days off and went to France.
France has always to me been a paradox. Some of its most glorious years were under absolute Kings. The best architecture and culture of the past is Catholic and autocratic. The language and behaviour of more recent times is revolutionary, but a revolution which led at the turn of the nineteenth century to a tyranny and an unsuccessful attempt to dominate Europe by force of arms, rather than to a democracy on American lines. They nurtured Napoleon, where the US revolution created the Declaration of Independence, and a succession of great early elected Presidents. As a result there is always a kind of schizophrenia at the heart of French cities and in their approach to their varied and erratic past. There is no single story with the power of the UK’s gradual and occasionally turbulent road to universal suffrage, democratic rights and doughty independence (prior to 1972). There is no matching moral strength by the French revolution to compare to the American.

I was surprised at how much was on show of a more recent sad chapter in French history. The country which until Mr Hollande has done so much to cosy up to Germany and seek a joint control of the EU with them is still very conscious in Reims where I stayed of the two dreadful wars of the last century. Reims has a main road studded with posts to commemorate the progress of the advancing armies of liberation in 1945. The room where the German surrender was signed is understandably kept as a time capsule. The Resistance has their own museum. The blank plain glass of many of the upper nave windows of the cathedral is a reminder of the dangerous shelling of the First World War. It is not possible to be in Reims and to forget. The champagne makers tell visitors of how they blocked up parts of their fine cellars to prevent the German army pillaging all their best stock.

On the continent I understand the deep wish not to experience another western European war. This is a sentiment many of us share, though without that same immediate horror that comes from a past occupation still evident in the popular memory. It is still difficult to grasp why they think their new German friends might one day have any further warlike plans, or why being in the same currency as them helps in some way. The great news after 1945 is Germany did change profoundly for the better. With or without EU integration, Germany is not going to invade France again.

The other pleasant surprise was to see how friendly and understanding the French restauranteurs and shopkeepers are to their English guests, readily supplying any lack in British school french with their own well meant heavily accented English. In Reims they value the trade with the Brits, and have that special link thanks to the heroic efforts of our parents and grandparents in 1939-45.

The danger now for France is the damage the Euro project is doing to the economies of its members. Far from being a unifying project, bringing prosperity and harmony, it is becoming the opposite. It is fuelling disputes about to proceed from here. It is producing very different answers to its common troubles, with two Euros in circulation so far, the Cyprus Euro and the normal Euro, and worries over who else might face the Cyprus or the Greek treatment.

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67 Comments

  1. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    The German tragedy is that Prussia produced a series of geniuses in the 18th and 19th century and took over the German unification movement. If, say, Hanover had been the guiding light under British tutelage (Frederick III), history might have been so different.
    Now the Communists/Socialists are doing exactly what Prussia did to Germany, but they are doing it it to Europe.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Hush, you’ll have Jerry coming after you for your anti-German prejudices.

      I mean the Jerry who posts comments here, not any other Jerry.

    • jjmorcrette
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      May I ask politely to which socialists/communists you are referring?

  2. Alan
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    I like this rather reflective article by Mr Redwood. It seems to me to provide a more relaxed attitude about the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU than some articles that he has written. I think there is a common European attitude to life, with many shared values, and we ought to be able to build on this and create a region of the world where we can enjoy our similarities and differences.

    If we had joined Schengen Mr Redwood could have made his journey without frontier controls, and if we had joined the euro he would have avoided the inconvenience and expense of having to change currencies. His visit would have been less irksome and cheaper. He might have returned in an even more relaxed mood, eager to make progress on improving our relationships with the rest of the EU.

    Reply One of the good things about the journey was to discover thorough border controls for re-entry into the UK by the UK authorities at Calais. I experienced no inconvenience in changing currencies, as I used a plastic card. Vive la difference.

    • Alan
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply: You like border controls? Oh dear, another thing on which we disagree.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        @Alan: I don’t dislike boarder controls, I just think that they are ineffective, whilst not wishing to be a part of a Federalist EU I feel that we should be a full part of Schengen – not so much to allow people into the UK but to allow those who have got on to these shores to leave again without fear of the UK boarder agency catching-up with them on way out – there are now, apparently, people-trafficking gangs making money out of smuggling illegal migrants out of the UK…

        We could not fully protect our seaward boarders during WW2, to think we can today whilst allowing genuine civilian movement of people and goods is rather naive in my opinion, someone who really wants to enter the UK will do so, why then make it difficult for them to leave once they have found the streets of London paved with granite rather than gold?!

        Reply There were no border checks on the way out when I went to France.

        • Jerry
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

          @JR Reply: What none, I suggest that you have a quite word with the Home Secretary about this! I suspect what you mean is that there wasn’t any visible border checks.

          Reply No one got on the coach to check our papers and we did not have to get out of the coach.

        • zorro
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 7:14 am | Permalink

          Jerry, the numbers are very small compared to those trying to enter the country illegally. By definition, those trying to leave illegally will have entered illegally. It is not good policy to facilitate crime.

          zorro

          • Jerry
            Posted June 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            @Zorro: Would it not be better to stop these illegal migrants before they get anywhere close to the UK shore?

            Of course once in the UK these illegal migrants are not longer a “wider EU” problem, of course if they were free to hop over the channel at any time they wish these illegal migrants remain a problem for the wider EU as they do the UK…

          • zorro
            Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            I did reply regarding Schengen, but not included by John.

            zorro

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        Alan–How else even begin to control immigration?

        • Jerry
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:35 am | Permalink

          @Leslie Singleton: At the EU’s outer boarders (points of entry)?

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Why on earth do you need a single currency in the days of plastic, bank machines and instant bank payments? Is the 25-60% youth unemployment rates (in much of the EU Greece, Spain, Italy, France) and loss of any real democracy, a price worth paying in your view?

      I see Mathew Paris, in the Spectator, want nothing to do with a Tory Party that has any dealing with UKIP. So there is another advantage in such a deal, in addition to not being completely destroyed in the 2015 election and for several terms.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        @Lifelogic: “Why on earth do you need a single currency in the days of plastic, bank machines and instant bank payments?

        Not everything can be paid for by plastic [1], ATM’s might not be available (not present or not working) whilst some people still do not have access to ATM cards never mind debit/credit cards. Also you seem to have forgotten that for those outside of the EZ, exchange rates/charges apply even when using an ATM, a €10 note = €10 note regardless of which EZ country it is drawn in or which EZ country it is spent in.

        [1] for example, that late might public transport or taxi fare from airport to hotel

        • Jer
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          Indeed Mr Jerry, not everything can be paid for by plastic.

          Our employees who, unlike you, me and Mr Redwood, often don’t know which country they will be in next, carry US dollars for this purpose, as they are acceptable anywhere.

          Have you ever exchanged money? Easy, isn’t it?

      • uanime5
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        Given that the youth unemployment rate is 20.7% in the UK and 5.4% in Germany it seems that this problem isn’t due to the euro but the way a country is run.

        • David Price
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

          EU statistics (from eurostat) for 2012Q4 indicates you are inaccurate (50% out on the German figure) and being very selective with facts;

          EU-27 23.2%
          Euro area 23.7%

          Germany 7.9%
          UK 20.7%

          To put this in perspective;

          Ireland 29.4%
          Greece 57.9%
          Spain 55.2%
          France 25.4%
          Italy 36.9%
          Sweden 24.1%
          Nederlands 9.8%

          Looks like the EU and Euro areas have a large problem with youth unemployment. The issue is how to solve it rather than exploit it for dubious dogmatic claptrap

        • lifelogic
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          It is both.

    • Roger Farmer
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Possibly Mr Redwood’s more relaxed attitude was due to contact with normal average French people who have much the same aspirations as the British. It is only when one arrives at the upper reaches of politics, and the often bizarre people who lurk within, that stark differences arise. I have competed against them in cars, flown and sailed with them. I have always found them hospitable, friendly and devoid of many of the hang-ups I have experienced with my own lot.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Surrendering national sovereignty and self-governance is too high a price to pay for either of these so-called benefits.

    • APL
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Alan: “If we had joined Schengen Mr Redwood could have made his journey without frontier controls, and if we had joined the euro he would have avoided the inconvenience and expense of having to change currencies.”

      This is of course the silly argument that for 12 minutes a year – the time it takes to change currency, as opposed to the 40 minutes waiting for the flight – we should abandon our political independence. It was a rubbish argument then, and it is a rubbish argument now.

      However;

      Alan: “I like this rather reflective article by Mr Redwood”

      He tells a good yarn.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        @APL: Being a part of the Schengen area (or using the Euro for its currency for that matter) doesn’t seem to have done Monaco [1] any harm and they have retained their political independence to boot so indeed the very simplistic argument you suggest was rubbish when first used, and it is a rubbish argument now…!

        The Schengen Agreement allows free movement of people within the EU’s outer boarders, entry checks into/out of the EU still exist, nor does it equate to the free movement of Labour.

        [1] nor Switzerland in the case of Schengen

        • APL
          Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          Jerry: “doesn’t seem to have done Monaco [1] any harm and they have retained”

          In a new conciliatory mood and to limit pointless argument I admit now, have no idea what point you are trying to make.

          But whatever it is, I would have thought the population of Monaco is rather atypical of the population at large in the EU. So I am not sure what relevance it might have to the ordinary fellow trying to cross between the UK and (say) France and in the process exchanging his sterling currency for Euros.

          I would point out though ( and here I further admit I don’t know if you believe the ability of a country to control its own currency enhances or detracts from that countries independence ) before the introduction of the Euro, Monaco used the French Franc, I would suggest (1) Monaco had rather limited financial independence from France prior to the introduction of the Euro, and (2) The introduction of the Euro in both France and Monaco simultaneously, really didn’t alter the relationship between France and Monaco significantly.

          • Jerry
            Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

            @APL: “I admit now, have no idea what point you are trying to make.

            Perhaps had you read my second paragraph and not got distracted by my bracketed comment about the Euro before jumping in with both feet?…

          • APL
            Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            Jerry: “Perhaps had you read my second paragraph and not got distracted by my bracketed comment about the Euro before jumping in with both feet?…”

            1)You reply to my post about the Euro with one about Schengen. I’d say it was an irrelevant reply.

            2) If you want to discuss border free arrangements, why scour the continent, when we have had a perfectly functional ‘Schengen’ type arrangement between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for over two hundred years. Once again the continentals have little to teach us that we did not already know.

            This is my last post to you on this topic, I ain’t gonna bother to reply to you in this thread.

            Cordially,

          • Jerry
            Posted June 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

            @APL: “This is my last post to you on this topic, I ain’t gonna bother to reply to you in this thread.

            I notice you don’t use the word “debate”, probably because you have no idea what the word means, you seem more interested in just having a rant – and then get upset if any one dares to challenge the basis of your rant. Clue, this threat of John’s blog has been primarily about the Schengen Agreement (border controls), try reading Alan’s original comment again…

      • Kenneth Morton
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

        Of course, the second major advantage that supporters of the Euro stressed a dozen years ago was ‘price transparency’. The price of oranges in Greece, lower than in any other EU country, would automatically and magically bring down the price elsewhere once the price was expressed in Euros.

        I wonder why this has never happened to the price of oranges or indeed any other item.

        No different to all the other pie-in-the-sky claims made by the naive dreamers in favour of the Euro. Their dreams have turned into a frightful nightmare.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

          I think it may be because most people don’t go to Greece to buy half a dozen oranges, they go to some local shop or market in their own country; and even now with the internet only a very small minority will ever use it to buy their oranges direct from Greece.

          With some other items, large ticket items, it may be worthwhile to buy direct from abroad; even so I haven’t so much recently about people preferring to do that for cars so I don’t know what’s happened about that.

          It was, as you say, just another of the pie-in-the-sky claims made by deceitful eurofederalists, which they themselves knew had little basis in reality but which seemed a good way to fool the masses.

    • zorro
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      The currency argument is so passé ……Use your plastic for most items and just keep some change in your pocket. I also know a very competitive money exchange booth in London……

      zorro

    • margaret brandreth-j
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      How can anyone not welcome good border controls John ?

    • William Long
      Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      If we had joined the Euro there is a good chance that the financial collapse we would be facing, would have meant that JR would not have been able to afford his trip!

  3. Jose
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    A problem that France shares with many other countries is the remoteness of its decision-makers from the people. The governmental elite in many countries appear to want things to change but not in a democratic way; they fear the possible outcome of putting many of their EU ideas to the electorate. Of course these same elites see their project, of which we are not truly participants but rather irritants, as the only way forward. There is no alternative and any talk of such will be squashed.

    The French like the British should concentrate a bit more on restoring their nation’s finances and stop using the EU as their political prawn sandwich!

  4. sm
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I am currently studying (for pleasure) the history of the Holy Roman Empire, with a sideways diversion into the Congress of Vienna.

    From this, I understand the fear of German expansion that is felt by other European nations, which goes back for many, many centuries. Do you strengthen Germany in order to have an effective barrier against Russian aggression in the Baltic? Do you weaken Germany to give France a stable border in Alsace-Lorraine?

    From the days of the Maastricht Treaty, I have felt that in some inchoate way the architects of the EU have wanted to replicate the HRE as a way of stabilising Western Europe – perhaps it is time to bring back the Habsburgs (or the Hohenzollerns, but not the Bourbons!)?

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The EU is at its heart an anti-democratic organisation. Its determined objective has always been, and remains, the removal of the nation state and a political union. Because it is anti-democratic, the people of the nation states are being driven down this road without being asked for their consent. The euro and the eurozone are tools being used to accelerate the achievement of that objective. Our own government has been complicit in encouraging that development, despite protestations from the Conservative leadership about the need for repatriation of powers to the UK. They must know that this is not achievable in any meaningful way as it flies in the face of the afore mentioned objectives.

    • Nick
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      As is Westminster.

      We promise not to introduce tuition fees.

      Oh we lied

      We promise to introduce the right of recall of MPs.

      Oh, we lied.

      Why?

      Well, if we had that the plebs would ask for a recall vote and we would be out. We want 5 years of money, 5 years of being paid off by the lobby, 5 years of expenses immune from taxes and investigation, and a big pay off at the end.

  6. Bill
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Glad you were able to have a few days of holiday, John.

    What do the French make of those of their number who are selling up and buying houses in London to escape from the euro?

    • Gary
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      The french are leaving France not because of the euro, but because of Hollande’s insane super tax.

  7. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Since the truth dawned, a couple of decades ago, that instead of joining a common market the UK had joined a political union it seemed to me probable that it would end in tears. Far from preventing war, ever closer union was likely to promote war, though more like civil rather than international.

    The EU is inherently undemocratic, and if people are taken in a direction against their will with no recourse to change that direction by democratic means, eventually an alternative means of change is sought. Hopefully, in these modern times, civil war will at worst be no more than a skirmish before wiser councils prevail and restore national democracy.

    Better still would be for nations to simply reassert their national independence and move away from political union. We can all spend a pleasant weekend in Rheims without being members of the EU.

  8. Nick
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    It’s not the Euro. It’s government running Ponzi schemes and running up massive debts.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      The Polish Foreign Minister was on Newsnight during the week.

      One thing he said in a muddled sort of way was that there was a lot of opposition to Poland joining the euro and the government didn’t intend to attempt that until after the eurozone had sorted itself out, but it would be beneficial because Poland could then have interest rates closer to those of Germany.

      Well, of course that is precisely where a number of countries went wrong, thinking that by joining the euro they could make use of Germany’s creditworthiness rather than having to rely on their own; and for some years the markets went along with the idea that bonds issued by the government of Greece, for example, were just as dependable as bonds issued by the government of Germany, until reality sank in and they decided otherwise.

      • Robert Christopher
        Posted June 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        “… until after the eurozone had sorted itself out …”

        So, does he want to join ? ::)

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          I can’t say for sure what he, personally, would really prefer.

          I suppose he has to be careful what he says in public, because he will know that some years ago a previous Polish government mooted holding a referendum on whether Poland should join the euro, and was instantly reminded by the Commission that Poland was legally obliged to join the euro under its treaty of accession to the EU; and he will also know that Merkel has publicly stated her goal that all EU member states will join the euro – and making no exception for the two countries with treaty opt-outs from ever having to do so, the UK and Denmark – and he doesn’t want to fall out with her; and he will also know that when seven of the new EU member states including Poland started muttering about getting out of their legal obligation to join the euro, because the eurozone rules were changing so much since they had first agreed to join it under their accession treaties, nobody else in the EU spoke up to support them.

          And you can guess who I think should have spoken up strongly to support them, especially as at that time the governing party in the Czech Republic was supposedly allied to the Tory party.

          I could provide links to verify all these points, but I won’t give JR the trouble of checking them out.

  9. Bazman
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    If you ever visit Russia you will see that the architecture is heavily influenced by the French. In the city of Samara after a few light ales you would swear you are in France. France and Germany has always looked to Russia enviously of her land and Russia looks enviously at money and technology of Germany and France. Russia’s enemies are either swallowed or spat out as history has shown. Did you travail via Stalingrad on the Paris Metro John?

  10. Matthew
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    After being invaded three times in about 70 years by Germany, or the German Federation, it’s no wonder France became a little jumpy and wished to tightly embrace its former adversary.

    The cost of the continued integration is being shouldered by the younger generations in France, Spain, Italy and Greece.

    • APL
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Matthew: ” and wished to tightly embrace its former adversary.”

      If that is the case, perhaps we should have left them in the warm embrace of their neighbor in 1914 and saved ourselves an awful lot of blood and treasure.

      • Jer
        Posted June 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I believe we entered WW1 notionally as allies of Belgium.

        That this put us necessarily on the side of the French, a nation that traditionally has a foreign policy of stymieing the English wherever possible was a coincidence.

  11. Javelin
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    The paradoxical theory of change says the more you try to change a person to be what they are not the more likely they are to behave in a way that you are trying to stop.

    If you want peace in Europe you need to create peace not a super state.

  12. Gary
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    “Why on earth do you need a
    single currency in the days of
    plastic, bank machines and
    instant bank payments?”

    To stop the bankrupt policy of competitive devaluation by nations, a race to the bottom. We need a global currency anchored to some yardstick that is non-inflating, out of the hands of bankers and politicians, and only gold fits the bill. At least the ECB marks its gold holdings to the market value of gold providing some legitimacy for the valuation of the euro. This is reflected in the relative strength of the euro.Unlike the irredeemable fiat currencies that float without basis and are subject to the lazy policy of printing for govt deficit financing. Preferably all currencies should be fixed to gold.

    Gold is the only substance known to man thats value tracks the non-inflationary growth rate of the economy, in what Keynes called the most solid relationship in all of economics.

    Reply Gold has not been a great store of value in recent months!

    • Gary
      Posted June 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      True.

      After 12 years of going up it may have needed a correction, and that correction may not yet be over. At least in the paper gold market. The physical gold market has no official price and is said(anecdotally) to currently trade at a premium to paper.

      • Bazman
        Posted June 3, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Gold can now be made from paper these days and is avalible as electricity too, so what aboutBitcoin or some other virtual currency?

  13. zorro
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Your articles on France and Germany are food for thought…..but I still keep asking myself how can I envisage Cast Elastic negotiating an improved relationship for the UK in the EU when he’s running scared of debating with Farage……Is he frit?

    zorro

  14. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Gentle piece Jon, I need to visit France again . It must be 30 years since I was there.

  15. Alte Fritz
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I also find the French people to be far abler representatives of their country than their government.

  16. oldtimer
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Your trip confirms my view that ordinary people, going about their daily business, usually get along with each other. The political elite of the day – be they the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, the Hohenzollerns or the contemporary Eurocracy or Westminster panjandrums – live in a remote, parallel universe. From time to time this parallel universe is swallowed in a black hole, variously labelled a war or a revolution, depending whether the threat emerged externally or internally. The threat to the Eurocracy will be internal; I think it is quietly simmering for the time being. For the Westminster panjandrums, the threat is UKIP. How either will play out is anyones guess.

  17. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    “The great news after 1945 is Germany did change profoundly for the better. With or without EU integration, Germany is not going to invade France again.”

    Well, according to Merkel just the failure of the euro could lead to war, so I don’t know whether she’s expecting that France might invade Germany or what.

    • Peter van Leeuwen
      Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      @Denis Cooper: At the start of the 20th century, few people will have predicted WWI &II.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        I don’t know whether they would count as “few”, but some people had long expected another war in Europe because of the increasingly aggressive attitude of Germany and the consequent formation of two military blocs; the First World War could very easily have started before 1914, more or less at any time from 1905 onwards.

        Having just one military bloc, NATO, rather than two or more, is what has made the difference between war and peace, not the EU.

        • Peter van Leeuwen
          Posted June 3, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          @Denis Cooper: We’ll probably continue to disagree about these matters. On top of that, I’ve never been a great fan of Nato or the military in general. I prefer non-military approaches of conflict resolution, for which the EU is a better tool.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted June 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

            Then I guess you won’t be too happy about this:

            http://www.eurocorps.org/

            “A force for NATO and the European Union”.

            As you will probably guess, I’m not at all happy about it; so maybe for once we will actually agree on something even if for different reasons?

  18. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I think it a good thing that the past is remembered, whether it is the horrors of WWI and WWII for the French or the holocaust for the Jews (and us of course).
    Plastic money is great but imagine you are a SME exporting to the US and had to use 50 different fluctuating foreign exchange rates depending on which state you were exporting to, or (in case you wanted to uplift your miserable continental friends with your superior products) you had to deal with 17 different currencies. It does make life more complicated.
    The perceived eurozone problems will be solved by the eurozone itself, without any biased advice from across the North Sea. After its defeat on the fiscal pact the UK is even less involved than it used to be. (The “veto” may be considered a “victory” by euroscpetics, which is really amusing. A victory would have been managing other countries to join Britain’s “lead” on this)

  19. backofanenvelope
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I think it is a common mistake by the English to lump all those people across the Channel together as Europeans. They are a very varied lot. I have friends in Normandy and Britanny and they are none to keen on the French, especially the ones in Paris. I also have friends in Munich and they call the rest of the Germans Prussians, and it is not a compliment.

    I have just come back from a week in Germany and it is interesting how widespread the use of English is on shopfronts and the sides of trucks. Not just in Germany, but also in France and Belgium.

    • Robert Christopher
      Posted June 2, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      ” I have friends in Normandy and Britanny and they are none to keen on the French, especially the ones in Paris.”

      I take it your friends were French?

      In Corsica, some years ago, seated in a restaurant, we witnessed similar behaviour!

      • backofanenvelope
        Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        Sorry, I should have been clearer. The ones in Britanny and Normandy were Bretons and Normans; the ones in Munich were Bavarian.

  20. wab
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    “The language and behaviour of more recent times is revolutionary, but a revolution which led at the turn of the nineteenth century to a tyranny and an unsuccessful attempt to dominate Europe by force of arms, rather than to a democracy on American lines.”

    In the 19th century the American government committed what amounts to genocide against the native Americans. I don’t think this was any better than what happened under any French government, but it’s pointless comparing awful behaviour to see which is “worse”. One difference was that the French government waged war against similarly armed opponents (at least in Europe), whereas the American government waged war with a huge technological advantage.

    (And needless to say, British imperial rule in the 19th century was not exactly sweetness and light either.)

  21. Jon
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    ” It is still difficult to grasp why they think their new German friends might one day have any further warlike plans, or why being in the same currency as them helps in some way.”

    My take is that the French celebrate their revolution, but today they know that it was so brutal, the butchering of children and women for public pleasure in a square in the name of revolution. They lack the confidence of Britain that was not invaded. Their revolution cut the continuity so they have a disconnect with the foundations of their nation. They seek solace in the form of continuity of medieval farming methods to fill the displacement. They seek solace in being obstinate with the culling of sheep on highways and strikes in order to connect with their recent history they know, the post revolution history. We in Britain have as much blood on our hands but a continuity and history that we accept and form our judgement for the future.

  22. Pleb
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    It was our elite who watched the French revoloution and became scared that the brits would do the same. They invented Westminster in the hope of saving theit own necks.
    It was democracy just basic survival.

  23. Pleb
    Posted June 2, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Edit (sorry)
    It was democracy just basic survival ……. should read…
    It was not for democracy just basic survival.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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