A Europhile weeps . . .


As a lover of European literature I have developed a sense of being “European”, sharing in the culture of Thomas Mann, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Robert Walser, Gunther Grass, Magda Szabo and many others.  My wife and I love visiting Europe and every year we drive through France, Germany and other countries, appreciating the differences in culture that we find and enjoying the sense of being part of this great continent.

It is not for a book blogger to offer too much in the way of political commentary, but I am very upset that it now looks as though the British government has been most influenced by a cohort of 80 to 90 Members of Parliament who have such a hatred of European federalism that they are prepared to make our nation an outsider in Europe, excluded from important decision-making processes and isolated from those who should be our natural partners and allies.

Above Rudesheim

I was so upset yesterday morning to hear the news of our new position outside the European mainstream  that I wrote two letters – one to David Cameron and another to Nick Clegg one of which I publish below.  I know its utterly pointless to write to such senior figures but perhaps at least my letters will be included in any count of those who are not in agreement with current policies.

Dear Mr Cameron

I am appalled and embarrassed by the stance you took in Brussels over the last 24 hours.

It is vital to our prosperity and national well-being that we be at the heart of Europe, influencing its key decisions and co-operating with our neighbours – our natural allies in an increasingly hostile world.  The decision to stay out of the new group is shaming to our national interest and can only lead to serious problems down the road.

I hope you will do your utmost to rectify this worrying situation you have created and that in the future you will revert to a more measured approach of diplomacy and bridge-building.  I sincerely believe that there is no future for us as a go-it-alone nation waiting in the wings for any crumbs we are cast by the new grouping of European nations.

Yours sincerely

Falaise Castle

If any Europeans read this blog post, I can say that there are many people in Britain who share my views.  While on holiday earlier in the year I had a conversation with a very elderly man who had fought in the Second World War and it was nice to hear him say that he couldn’t see why anyone who had fought in the war would not want to fully support the European movement and other co-operative structures which go such a long way to ensuring that conflict between nations is resolved by talking rather than fighting.

On a lighter note, I suggest that there is no point in the United Kingdom putting forward a candidate in next years’s Eurovision Song Contest because nobody will vote for us (not that many do anyway!).

All paintings (c)Tom Cunliffe 2011

34 thoughts on “A Europhile weeps . . .

  1. Nice post Tom. I was angry with your Prime Minister when I heard the news this morning. But unfortunately, it wasn’t a surprise. However, I don’t think we have lessons to give regarding the quality of politicians.

    When we read, we can connect to other cultures and we have something in common in Europe. I’m glad the EU has increased the budget for the Erasmus program.

    On the book side, I’m currently doing a EU Book tour, do you want to get on the bus and do it too? There’s a page on my blog.


  2. Well said. I thoroughly agree. I urge the eurosceptics/little Englanders I meet to spend a few moments among the sloping vineyards of Alsace and look across the wide Rhine valley to the Black Forest and marvel how that vast plain, tramped over, destroyed, devastated by countless armies over the centuries, is now – and has been for the last 65 years – a marvel of industrious tranquillity. I have always felt European. The EC had an important and, largely unrecorded, role in bringing peace to a part of the UK – Northern Ireland. (European money funded huge cross-commuity projects.) Jean Monnet and the other founders of what we now call the EC had a grand design. We should have been part of it then. We should be part of it now.


  3. Hi Tom and A hearty yay! to you, I worked in Germany 0n & 0ff, for 6 years & adored the place, I also was constantly shocked & dismayed by the xenophobic & isolationist view of British people I met, this combined with that we’re “British & obviously superior” attitude lead me to describe myself if asked as either European or if pushed Eurobrit, complete with an explanation of why. Even to this day I loathe the jingoistic nature that often is prevalent in this country(or is most reported)and will raise a counterpoint if I hear it from my colleagues etc.
    PS, I will be tweeting this post, hopefully to give it greater exposure.
    Thanks for a wonderful response to what is a pathetic attempt by our Govt. to flex what they think is their muscle, but is merely foul wind.


    • Hi Parrish – thank you so much for your comment. I felt I was going to lose lots of UK based readers – where I live, the Daily Mail holds sway – but when you talk to the readers of the paper you find total ignorance of the real world and a xenophobic response which seems totally pathetic. O suspect that most “readers” such as you and me have been exposed to European literature over and over again and realise that we have far more in common with our EU neighbours than we have differences.


  4. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with you, Tom, and I admire you for your courage. Hopefully, Mr. Cameron receives a lot of letters like yours. He’s obviously not going to the “German” Christmas markets in the UK. ,-)


    • Hi Quirina – The funny thing is that the English people love all things French and German – French wines, food, gites, and German cars and Chrismas traditions. I blame a lot of it on our right wing press – there are only three newspapers which present a more balanced view. Thanks for visiting


  5. And from far away here in Australia I can only offer a puzzled frown. What was Cameron thinking?? It must be that he is playing to a domestic audience, but from here it looks like he is shooting himself in the foot.


    • Lisa – thanks for that – yes, exactly. We are a small island located off a big continent and now we want to go it alone rather than working in partnership with our neighbours


  6. I couldn’t agree more, Tom, for I feel very much a European, too. It seems so shortsighted of your Prime Minister – as if there were a good alternative. Just think what Europe would have looked like without the EU. Sadly, over here in the Netherlands EU-bashing has come into fashion as well, although so far only among a minority.
    Lovely paintings by the way!


  7. Hi Tom, if you don’t mind I would like to borrow a quote from your post and will reference and link to it in the post I’m writing about a book on translation. if this is a problem please let me know.
    Thanks Parrish.


  8. I think it’s a very short-sighted policy designed purely to satisfy the eurosceptics in his party. I am getting increasingly disillusioned with UK politics and society, to the point I’m wondering whether it might just be time to pack up and head back to Oz after 13 years.


  9. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I have the sense that most Tory backbenchers still believe that we’re still a serious imperial power, not one in post-imperial decline, and that’s what leads to this sort of behaviour.

    I knew we were in for a bumpy ride when the hatchets came out for Higher Education…


  10. I love your book reviews, and was surprised to see your political commentary. It has spurred a response that may or may not make a difference to you. I lived in England for a little more than seven years (1969-1977) at a fairly momentous time. As an American, married to an American, living on an American salary as my husband worked to help a particular British company train it’s engineers–I lived fairly well, although it was VERY difficult to find a flat since we had a 2 year old and the laws protecting tenants with children were so draconian that they discouraged all but immigrants, it seemed, from letting property to anyone who had a child.

    Now, you know. I was resident during the Harold Wilson, Heath, Thatcher, et al, eras. I also lived in France and Germany during that time (months at a time) and after that (fairly recently) in Italy. Since I was an ignorant American, I knew next to nothing about politics, history, or almost anything else about Europe and England until those sojourns. I made it my business to find out, though, and read extensively–and that included Churchill’s books (History of the English Speaking People and his history of WWII). When I lived in Germany, I read books about the wars from their point of view, too. My abiding memory has been of how peoples of these nations remember “The War” as though it were yesterday. When England joined the Common Market, I had my doubts about this actually working. Why? Because it was strictly a marriage of convenience. The partners really don’t like one another. Really really don’t like one another. I can’t see what has changed since then except their belongings have become commingled. Now divorce seems imminent and the distribution of blame and belongings are going to be sorted out in a way that satisfied no one. You called your countrymen “little Englanders”, and I get it, but the truth is, from my perspective, it seems that the great strength of England was that very thing–the terrier/bull dog cross. I think British innovation and even their creative writing and thinking has been harmed by the close association with Europe. I know you will disagree, but great European literature has not benefitted from the melting pot of the EU–it has become, in my opinion Euromediocrity. When I lived in Italy (teaching at university there), I predicted to Italian friends (one night with a little vino bravado) that the Euro could not last and neither would the EU. Oddly, the company agreed. “We don’t like each other,” said my friend Giuseppe. “It’s sad, but true–too much history.” A British friend agreed and added “When the money runs out, we’ll see how long the love lasts.”
    My next prediction is that those who are so into the Euro will be panicked now and the same old irrational nationalism will spring up to add fuel to the fire. The allies will be different in some cases–for example, Little England may, in fact, find itself at war once again, with its arch rival/frenemy: France plus Germany. With the USA’s current political leadership, though, it’s unlikely that President Barack Obama will support England. England may have to rely on the friends she left behind, Australia, Canada, New Zealand. If so, and the brie hits the fan, at least the choice of butter and cheese will be better at Tesco’s.


    • KAthryn – a fascinating post. I think perhaps you’re a little pessimistic about the relations between people of different countries. The EU seems to have worked well up until the banking crisis and even then, there is a great desire to work together and sort out the problems. I think that any forum which encourages nations to find joint solutions to common problems has got to be a good thing – after all Winston Churchill is reported to have said “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war”.

      I understand that Britain’s decision to take a lesser role in the EU has not met with approval from the US Government who seemed to like us to be fully involved in order to exercise a moderating, pro-US influence.

      I realise that your comment comes from considerable experience of these topics and I am not trying to contradict you – others can read it and come to their own conclusions.


  11. Oh, one more thing. I know my post will not be popular, and I resist being unpopular. However, I love England–not the map, but the greatness of its children who have given the world so much. Even using the internet now, I wonder if we remember to thank Tim Berners-Lee, whose gift has made this possible?


  12. Hi Tom,

    I randomly found your post when searching in google for a Europhile organisation I can join and actively help to counter the disastrous effects of what Cameron did last week. As an expat living in France I fully agree with your sentiments. Still looking for that organisation though… type ‘europhile’ into google and you mostly find attacks on anyone who thinks that working with your neighbours is the only way to have a nice neighbourhood. At least your post has reassured me that I am not alone.


    • Phil – thanks for visiting. I can’t find an organisation such as you describe – I’ve looked myself in the past and never found anything. Shame isn’t it. Anyway, as you say, nice to know there are other europhiles!


    • Tony – thanks for visiting. Cameron isn’t a Murdoch puppet any more of course but I think he certainly was earlier in his government’s life


  13. While there’s no doubt that Cameron is taking the Euro hate a little too far (well, a lot!), I’m not one of those who believes that total integration into Europe is a wonderful thing. More exposure to all things European? Of course. Greater opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges? Certainly. Becoming European? No.

    I’ve always felt this way, through my various stays on the continent (an expression I use deliberately), and it’s a feeling which holds just as true for the Anglo-American relationship as the Anglo-European one. It’s important to learn more about other cultures without abandoning your own, and giving up political and economic control is not a good way to preserve your identity. The UK is definitely not alone in Europe in wrestling with this issue, much as some try to paint it this way.

    Of course, living in Australia, it’s very easy for me to pontificate in this way ;)


    • Hi Tony – thanks for your views. You have a lot in your favour there – I agree that we can’t really become European but it was the way our government pulled out of talks which annoyed me – and their misrepresenting this as a victory for Britain when in fact we got nothing at all from it.


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