I am an optimist about Germany. I do not think the new Germany that arose from the ashes of 1945 has military ambitions. I do not think the countries of Europe need fear armed invasion. It is not just NATO and the overarching power of the USA that keeps the peace in western Europe. It is the fact that Germany is one of the many nations that is both democratic and peace loving. Germany has nothing to gain from war, nor do any of the other western states.
Nor is modern France an heir to the tradition of the Grand armee and Napoleon. The French may still be proud of their time as Europe’s most powerful and dangerous nation, but they have no wish nor intention to recreate those days. Their present armed forces are for expeditionary work for the UN and NATO, not a European land force for conquest.
So when people tell me we must hang tight to the EU to prevent future wars, I tell them they have misread the current situation. It is not the EU that gives us our current peace, but the change of approach by Europe’s most powerful and once most dangerous nations. The UK dropped her claims to France more than four hundred years ago.
Whenever I have negotiated in the EU for the UK, or more recently been at meetings seeking to hammer out agreements and understandings with MPs, Ministers and others from other European countries, I have been struck by how so many are secretly afraid of Germany, or reluctant to stand up to her. The UK should not be afraid of Germany, though there are times when the UK establishment seems a little cowed by Germany’s relative economic power. The UK, after all, will overtake Germany as the largest European economy in due course, if present population trends continue. Being Germany’s largest trading partner where they sell us so much more than we sell them should put us in the driving seat, as we are the customer more than the supplier.
The EU will be a better place if more negotiators relax about Germany and just regard her as one country amongst many. I am on Germany’s side when they say they should not be paying more of the EU bills. The quid pro quo for that, is Germany should not have a disproportionate say in how the EU evolves. It is high time the UK stood up for its view of what it wants – which is a relationship based on trade, not one shackled to the troubled currency and political union.