The Spectator's Notes

The EU hasn’t settled the ‘German question’. It’s reopened it

Also in The Spectator’s Notes: Kohl and Mitterrand at Verdun; Jutland 1916; bathrooms; babies’ names; cuckoos

4 June 2016

9:00 AM

4 June 2016

9:00 AM

‘No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good,’ wrote Niall Ferguson in the latest Sunday Times. I hesitate when confronted by such an assertion by such a learned professor. But I think I would seriously deny it, or at least seriously question it. Surely what brought an end to Franco-German conflict was the utter defeat of Nazi Germany. European integration was a symptom of that end, not its cause. As for settling the German question, isn’t it too early to say? The eurozone is the first large non-German area to have been dominated by Germany since 1945. It is a mess. In countries such as Greece, its travails (mass unemployment, prolonged recession) have provoked the first new outbreaks of anti-German feeling since the war. Modern Germany is definitely not engaged in the Griff nach der Weltmacht whose terrible effects a hundred years ago were commemorated this week at Verdun and in respect of Jutland. But by using the single currency as the lead weapon to advance European integration, the EU project has created a new disturbance of the European order. The EU’s disastrous solution, which will go ahead if Britain votes to remain (and possibly even if we vote to leave), is to deepen the eurozone further, with fiscal and banking union. Germany will shape this. More German questions are raised than are settled.

Mrs Merkel and President Hollande stood together at Verdun to symbolise their countries’ reconciliation. In 1984, their predecessors, Kohl and Mitterrand, did so hand-in-hand. Most people considered this very moving. A friend of mine privately asked Margaret Thatcher if she did not think so too. ‘No, I did not,’ she exclaimed, ‘Two grown men holding hands!’ I have recently heard that the Kohl/Mitterrand gesture arose because the two men were stranded on the field of commemoration with no interpreters. Unable to talk to one another, they resorted to body language instead. It turned out more eloquent than words.

Here is my great-grandfather, Norman Moore, writing in his diary for 1916, of the news of Jutland breaking in London. ‘Friday June 2nd: The newspaper contents announced…severe fighting near Verdun, and no more. When I came out [of a meeting], half an hour later, they bore the exciting heading of great naval battle. The news seemed bad not good some 16 ships of ours lost. I knew Alan [his surviving son, in the Navy] was not in it yet felt anxious. On reaching home I telephoned to Mrs Crawshay to ask if she had any news. The night before she had sat next the Duke of Devonshire (at Lord Kenmare’s) who spoke of news of a victory… After dinner Lady Leslie telephoned to me & I went to 46 Great Cumberland Place where were Seymour Leslie and Mrs Crawshay & Lady Leslie & Lady Randolph Churchill. She [Lady Randolph, mother of Winston] had heard that 11 ships were sunk. Later she went to a dance where she thought she might hear news & telephoned thence at 12.50 a.m. saying Admiral Hood had gone down with his ship: & that the Lion had been in flames but brought off.’

The United States is convulsed by an argument about lavatories. Which ones should people who consider themselves neither male nor female, or who believe they are moving, or have moved, from one sex to the other, be free to use? Should special extra ones be built for them? I don’t propose to take sides here, but simply point out that the row has brought about the global victory of the American usage ‘bathroom’ to mean what we call (or called) lavatories or toilets. It is an odd choice of words, because the room referred to very rarely has a bath in it. In Britain, this usage of ‘bathroom’ at least gets rid of our long-standing class conflict about ‘lavatory’ versus ‘toilet’, though I suspect that some purists will equate it with the latter and happily fight the old war on a new front.

According to a recent law report in the Times, the Court of Appeal has just forbidden a mother to name her daughter Cyanide. The child was born to a schizophrenic woman, as the result of a rape. The girl is in local authority care. The mother’s lawyers argued that it is a statutory duty to register a child with a name and that the law has no provision to refuse offensive names. But Lady Justice King (itself a striking, though not offensive name) found that the choice of name was an act of ‘parental responsibility’. Because of the care order, this responsibility had devolved upon the local authority, which did not like the name Cyanide. So far, so good. But the judge also said that children were ‘capable of great unkindness’ and so ‘a name which attracted ridicule, teasing, bullying or embarrassment would have a deleterious effect on a child’s self-esteem’ and cause the child to resent ‘the parent who had inflicted it upon her’. This is so true, but is it a legal point? The country nowadays is full of children burdened with grotesque names. Are we to ban them? If you forbid Cyanide, should you permit Chardonnay? A further complication is that the little girl is a twin, and her mother wanted to call her twin brother Preacher. This too Lady Justice King forbade because, although Preacher ‘might not be an objectionable name’, ‘there was considerable benefit for the boy twin to be in the same position as his sister’ and for both to be named, as was proposed, by their half-siblings. We are not told what names the half-siblings want. I do hope it is something kind and simple, like Jack and Jill. In my mind’s eye is the old advertisement for Start-rite shoes, and the poor twins having so far to go on the long hard road of life.

For the first time ever, I have not heard a cuckoo in England this spring. I brood over this. On the other hand, my wife and son and daughter-in-law all have, so it could just be that I am growing deaf. I brood over that too.

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  • NickG

    No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good

    Oh yes we can!

    The ending of ‘Franco-German conflict’ may have had something to do with Germany having had the crap bombed out of them in WW2 by the US Army Air Force and the RAF, and being overrun and thoroughly defeated by Soviet, American, British and other Allied ground forces.

    As for having ‘settled the German question for good’. Given that it is a country that amongst many other evils, industrially massacred 6 million Jews, and is now headed up by an authoritarian leader with imperialist aspirations exerted through the EU, over which it holds hegemonic dominance. That it is a country that, despite its history, last year – unilaterally – admitted 1.5 million anti-Semites into Europe, how ‘settled the German question’ is would appear to be very much in play whilst being larded with great dollops of irony.

    • Jabez Foodbotham

      Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans. How about ein bischen Verstaendnis.

      • antoncheckout

        We can’t be half as beastly to them as their politicians are.
        Merkel announced this week that far from regretting having deliberately opened the German border to the stream of migrants, “I would do it again.”
        There are quite a lot of these opportunistic, stitched-up ‘grand coalitions’ between CDU and SPD-type parties in Europe – and they are drifting into parliamentary dictatorships.

      • Richard

        There’s an eerie prescience to that Noel Coward song. Regrettably I can’t paste the lyrics here owing to censorial interventions…

      • rtj1211

        There doesn’t seem to be a lot of Verstaendnis towards Greece by the Germans. Rather more appeasement of German bankers who might lose their jobs by taking hair-cuts.

        You do seem to be extremely selective in who you wish to offer Verstaendnis to. Would you offer it to the unemployed of Spain? Italy? Portugal? How about to the Hungarians who don’t want their land invaded by Arab migrants?


    • Cobbett

      All those German women and children incinerated by the RAF…makes you proud to be British.

      • NickG

        Some 600,000 German civilians were killed by Allied bombing in WW2. About 67,000 British civilians were killed by German bombs and V-weapons (V1s and V2s).

        Overall, in the European theatre, some 41 million were killed in the war – with the caveat that this number is disputed, it may be more. The vast bulk of deaths were Soviets killed on the Eastern Front. Though proportionally Poland suffered most, loosing some 16% of its population.

        Some do argue that Britain should not have got involved in the European war or come to an accommodation with Hitler after he let the British Expeditionary Force escape across the channel at Dunkirk at the end of May and in early June 1940.

        It makes for fascinating debate, but we are where we are. There is little doubt that Germany-Austria was defeated by the Allies in WW2 and lost in the ballpark of 7 million killed. That this ended what was rather more than a ‘Franco-German’ conflict.

        I’m glad to see that Charles Moore has since followed up with a more comprehensive de-bunking of the tosh in the above the line piece along identical lines.

      • Brazen

        I wonder if killing 20 million Russians makes the Germans proud?

        • Cobbett

          probably the same as raping 2 million German women I suppose

          • rtj1211

            How many women in Eastern Europe did German soldiers rape?

      • rtj1211

        I’m afraid forgiveness of sins for the Holocaust only goes so far. You reap what you sow is I believe the relevant expression here……..

    • Sonia

      Superb, but I fear the crowd do not want to see what is right in front of their eyes.

  • yeoman

    Ferguson’s essay was a sorry mess of rickety logic.
    Having set aside good historians who support Brexit, he concentrated on Brexit supporters whom he characterised as belonging to Collingwood’s ‘scissor and paste’ school of history. By definition they are therefore bad historians, therefore their case is invalid.
    He invoked Thatcher on the grounds that she was in favour of the common market.

    Why cannot Oxford produce historians the equal of those from Cambridge, London, Warwick….? (Parody of Ferguson style).

  • Uusikaupunki

    ‘No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good,’
    Perhaps….but think of Ukraine and Drang nach Osten

    • Toby

      and think of the desintegration of Yugoslavia too.

    • Richard

      A bit like saying that Mugabe brought an end to Rhodesia for good.

      • njt55

        A very good analogy

  • Ed  

    Germany is still tremendously powerful. The Germans and the French have different approaches to economic productivity, and so they will remain different. Linking them together economically has not worked, is not working, and will not work, until we can make a Frenchman work like a German, or vice versa. In the meantime, the PIIGS suffer under the old African saying that “when the elephants dance, it is hard on the grass”.

    • RS

      Germany is also tremendously weak on migration and in hock to Turkey. This makes Erdogan one of the most powerful people in the EU. The sooner we leave the EU the better.

  • Chris Bartelt

    The EU is the continuation of Germany by ‘other means’. The US sees it as a useful bulwark against Putin (deluded and barking entirely up the wrong tree in my opinion…. but there ya go)

  • Marathon-Youth

    Germany just ended paying reparations for World war 1, a few years ago. She is still paying for World war 2. Italy managed to escape such reparations.
    The EU banks are controlled by the Rothschild Family so where does Germany come in regarding the power of the EU?

  • AdrianM

    It is Muhammad who will have the final say on how Europe integrates, you f***king idiots.

  • Toby

    “The eurozone is the first large non-German area to have been dominated by Germany since 1945. It is a mess.”
    It is so ironic that it was a French president who thought the Euro might stop the domination of Germany…

    • rtj1211

      No more ironic than the British thinking that a ‘Special Relationship’ would moderate American Power….

  • chalkhillblue

    I can report that I heard a cuckoo a few weeks ago near East Grinstead.

    • AWoLsco

      When I was born in 1949, it was to the shrill cry of the greater ruffle-crested kike……and since then, it has never stopped.
      When will this nuisance be silenced?

      • Mow_the_Grass

        When you have been located and neutralised.
        Till then.

    • RS

      I heard John Major offering Boris Johnson advice on uniting the Conservative party over Europe only this morning.

  • john leadfoot

    From the photo shot are Merkel and Hollande handcuffed?

  • john leadfoot

    Seriously though the final battle for England begins on the 23rd June 2016.

    • Brian Jones

      Britain not England.

      • john leadfoot

        Hello Brian.
        I don’t know where you hail from, but since Anphoney B’Liar devolved the Celtic Nations under his regime, we in England are seeing the last battle for England before being absorb under EU Yoke fully. EU and our political elite parties have colluded in systematically destroying from within the purpose of England and it culture. Let alone flooding schools and local communities to a point where towns are no longer English. It has begun with soft tactics and after 23rd June 2016 when the Remain In wins and they will. Then the next policy from EU and that Quisling Cameron government will in effect be the death knell of England independence. The Political Elite are the New Normans of EU Parliament and having been waiting to attack with the Quisling Cameron helping all the way. The prize for the EU is the battle for England wealth and then it people it language it culture. The Celtic nations of Scotland Wales Northern Ireland and Cornwall already declared they wish to retain EU Parliament controls under pre conditions yet they too will be absorbed under the Yoke of the EU into regions.

  • NickG

    the Court of Appeal has just forbidden a mother to name her daughter Cyanide.

    Is this really any worse than naming a son Kevin?

    • kevinlynch1005

      It is. But only slightly!

    • njt55

      or Nigel

  • antoncheckout

    I’m waiting for the first avant-garde gender warriors to proclaim their mistrust of the soon-to-be-passé binary/non-binary, human/animal, toilet/non-toilet behaviourist clichés – and instead insist on their right to just pee or defecate anywhere they want to.

    • Richard

      It already happens in New York, or is due to be repealed. The reason is that it affects racial minorities more than whites (in other words, they relieve themselves away from toilets more than white people do) and so is discriminatory. The person motivating for repealing the laws said that not having the laws will help BMEs “realise their full potentials.”

    • RS

      It is only a matter of time before our council wants to rip up our well used tennis courts because there is low BME participation.

  • antoncheckout

    ‘Lady Justice King’. They are indeed two very curious baptismal names.

  • John Carins

    It is easy to resolve this “German” question:

    step 1 – UK leaves the EU
    step 2 – break up the nation states of Germany and France into regions or Lande. This will reduce the dominance of these former states.
    step 3 – Let the EU integrate further if it wishes without the UK.
    step 4 – In the UK more effort is applied to nurturing our 400 year old Union rather than being distracted by the EU.

    • rtj1211

      You assume that the Germans won’t veto your proposal.

      It has all the realpolitik of JFK sleeping with Margaret Thatcher…….

      • John Carins

        The only serious and important part of my proposal is step 1: the UK leaves the EU.

  • perdix

    The construction of the Fourth Reich by another name……

  • RS

    In 2010 Dodgy Dave went to Ankara. He said:

    1) By 2017 Turkey will be the second fastest growing World economy. According to the OECD in 2016 it won’t be in the top ten.

    2) He wanted to double UK Turkey trade from $9bn a year. According to UKTI it is currently £5.5bn a year.

    3) He wanted to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels.

    In 2016 Dodgy Dave tells us that Turkey wont join the EU for at least 980 years and the UK has a veto.

    Can you spot the lie on stilts?

  • Richard Young

    Allowing Germany to sign a ceasefire,oops Armistice in 1918 was the most inept, mind boggling stupidity in our history.No defeat document signed by the Kaiser and his Generals meant that most Germans thought they had been stabbed in the back, not beaten.Then we had to do it all over again, a few years later.EU my ‘arris.

    • rtj1211

      Nonsense, the reason we had to do it again were the war reparations terms, which made Germany permanently enslaved to the British/French/US axis. Keynes warned of it at Versailles, was sidelined for doing so and enjoyed a pyrrhic victory courtesy of the sacrifice of 7 million Jews and a few million white folks.

      Money is always the reason for war. It could be megalomaniacs wanting more of it or it could be greedy bankers seizing it. But war is never due to emotions, it is due to money. Always.

  • digoridoo

    Dismantle the Euro and put every country back onto its own currency. In other words, turn the EU back into the EEC.

    The pre-Maastricht EEC worked: it fulfilled its design goals, no war in Europe. France felt more confident, Britain was (more or less) happy. It would even be perfectly functional with the current 28 members (and more). Schengen is a separate issue, but the EEC format wouldn’t preclude it for those who wanted it. Border regions have always unofficially accepted the currencies of their immediate neighbours, and today we have instant payment cards and smart phones, which reduces the inconvenience of different currencies for travellers.

    The Euro is the poisonous cancer in Europe and the reason why Germany has so much power. It results in:

    1) A German currency which is too weak for their industrial productivity. Their exports outside the Eurozone are therefore too cheap and, as their productivity rises, the Euro doesn’t reflect this. Their advantage therefore continues to grow.

    2) The converse of this is a currency for the low productivity countries which is too strong, making it impossible for them to ever catch up with the Teutonic machine. They are doomed to selling their products/services at prices which are too high. And if their productivity falls any more, this is not reflected in a falling exchange rate. Their disadvantage is magnified.

    This gives Germany a permanent advantage. Exchange rates work like a regulator. You know those whirly things on the top of steam engines? As the pressure gets higher, the little balls spin out further and the pressure is released? The EU is missing its balls (hey, I like that!) and it’s the Euro wot dunnit.

    “Ist ja klar,” say the Germans, the olive-growers must improve their productivity. Well, maybe they should, but only a minority love Germany for its warm and laid-back lifestyle, whereas the whole world loves the joi de vivre of the French, Italians, Greeks, etc.

    Do we want to turn the Mediterraneans into clones with a horror of eye-contact and a distrust of strangers? German Bierstube and a brass band or Spanish Taverna and Flamenco? I’d prefer to have both. The Euro ultimately won’t allow it.

    • rtj1211

      IN every currency zone your argument about currency being too strong or weak is true. In the UK, the currency is too weak for London’s financial services district and too strong for the North East of England, the Valleys of Wales etc. London is getting richer and richer and the rest poorer and poorer. The power all resides in London, just as in the EU it resides in Germany.

      You can say the same about the USA: just substitute New York, Boston, San Fransisco and Austin for Germany and Louisiana, Iowa, Detroit etc for the Club Med nations.

      If you want your arguments to carry weight, you have to tackle London’s power too within the UK.

      Or would that harm your own narrow selfish interests??

      • digoridoo

        You’re right of course about the apparent anomalies you mention. This is (or can/should be) corrected by fiscal transfers within the currency zone. I refer you to my post from 4 days ago in Forsyth’s article “In this EU referendum, every vote will be a leap in the dark”, here:

        Take a look at “option 2”.

        BTW why does this make my interests narrow and selfish?

        Look forward to continuing the discussion politely, otherwise I’ll ignore you.

  • evad666

    Well the EU is doing its best to resurrect the extreme right which cost Europe so much blood and treasure by ignoring the political centre and pandering to socialism.