Anglo-German relations are defined by mutual incomprehension


“MARK my words. Within a year she’ll be gone. She’s stuffed.” Thus a senior Cameroon surveyed the landscape almost exactly a year—and what feels like many political ages—ago over dinner. He was talking of Angela Merkel, whose handling of the refugee crisis 10 Downing Street considered suicidal. Surely, the thinking went, no leader could accept the arrival and settlement of so many newcomers and survive? The bafflement betrayed the British government’s poor grasp of the differences between its electorate and political system, and those of Germany. Indeed, today it is Mr Cameron who is “stuffed” and “gone” while Angela Merkel cruises, albeit through choppy waters, to a fourth term as chancellor.

The incident underlines one of the sad if perennial features of Anglo-German relations: mutual incomprehension. Sad, because the two countries share so much, in interests and outlook. And perennial because their political cultures are so alien to one another.

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