As Britain moves toward its snap election and then Brexit talks, attention is shifting toward the negotiating positions of the EU27. Many Britons view Germany as potentially forthcoming when it comes to future UK-EU trade agreements. But Michael Wohlgemuth, Director of the think tank Open Europe Berlin, warns Germany may not turn out to be the natural ally Britons hope for.
To understand German views toward European integration generally and Brexit specifically, you first have to grasp a fundamental difference between Anglo-American and German mentality. The American celebrity economist Paul Krugman once described this difference quite perceptively thus: “It’s not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it’s Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative vs. William James’ pragmatism. What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth, the basis of morality, when shops will be open, and what a deutsche mark is worth. Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: they go with whatever seems more or less to work.”