Mrs. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, gave a speech last week in which she outlined the need to choose the “hard Brexit“ option. Britain will therefore pursue a complete, clean break from all EU structures (including the single market) and aim to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU – no further British cherry-picking will be possible.
In Germany, where I was running an IDEAL English workshop in Frankfurt last week, the very cold weather might have influenced the icy way in which the German people have received the words of Mrs. May, the British Prime Minister, often putting them alongside those of the new American President, Mr. Trump. One might not like the coupling but many people here tend to put them in the same bag. I have asked some of my country-fellowmen and –women over the past few days and the majority of them were certainly unimpressed by the prime minister’s words. Nothing in her speech seemed to sound right. The promise to reach a “positive deal” is misguided. It’s not positive to show contempt towards European citizens or to discriminate against its residents. Neither does it make sense to threaten the Europeans it will have to negotiate with! How come she was trying to copy Mr. Trump’s pathetic attempts to bang his messages home by thriving on threats and fear?
I have collected some of the adjectives used by my IDEAL-clients at the workshop discussions to describe Mrs. May’s words: “challenging, hostile, hard, threatening, without concessions, illogical, extreme and fierce”.
We must not forget that the time when the British Empire used to decide the rules of the game was back in the 19th century.
Some serious German newspapers accused Mrs. May of wanting to mistreat the 3.3 million EU citizens living in Britain (I am one of them!) of simply working to transform the country into a tax haven. Britain will certainly not get away with a hard Brexit for the Europeans and a soft one for them – that’s the general mood in Europe combined with a great sadness of having lost a vital part of the European community – not only in economic terms.
However, “the European Union was born without the UK and it can continue perfectly well without it” – that’s what one influential European politician pointed out in her speech yesterday. ^
More than 70% of the German population is in favour of the European Union, suggesting that citizens feel a greater need for European solidarity and security in the face of a potential break-up. Trump’s inauguration speech is likely to cement this sentiment.
It has become abundantly clear that Britain will have to punch extremely hard in order to realise May’s vision of a “global Britain”. Shakespeare might be turning in his grave when thinking of his very first play that carried a “global” theme!
Do you think that further exits from the European Union are likely to happen or even inevitable? We, from IDEAL-English and Culture in Brighton/UK, would love to hear from you.
Take care and keep smiling.
All best, Peter from Frankfurt/Germany