- Animism – not just pagan ritual leftovers like the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance but our deep empathy with pets and farm animals
- A deep distrust of the French (remember Hartlepool’s monkey-hangers)
And now we discover – by a leaked secret memo, of course, G-d forbid we be told anything openly – that there are three EU preconditions for even beginning to discuss alterations to the draft Withdrawal Agreement; conditions that are for us a surrender in advance of the battle.
But though we are divided at home, the EU itself is not united:
After chiding Ms Merkel for her many expensive policy errors, German AfD leader Alice Weidel’s speech to the Bundestag on 21 March went on to accuse her of “blind loyalty” (3:01) to the French, who want to deny Britain access to the single market. January’s Aachen Treaty on Franco-Germancooperation “had France’s fingerprints all over it” (3:40), benefitting the latter’s inefficient economy but sending much of the bill to the German taxpayer who, once Britain has left, will not be able to command a blocking minority in the Council to prevent fresh fiscal assaults on the biggest remaining economy.
Weidel quoted M. Barnier (5:26) as confiding to a colleague, “My mission will have been a success when the terms are so brutal for the British that they prefer to stay in the Union.”
We are not the only ones with national traits. The Germans love tribal unity and have a lethal penchant for abstract theorising (from Luther to Karl Marx to the Frankfurt School), but the French combine theatricality with sharp dealing and calculating selfishness. Think of William the Conqueror, turning his pratfall on the shore into symbolic seizure of the land, then ordering the Domesday Book to count exactly how much he’d grabbed; the 1789 windy Tennis Court Oath that blew off so many of the Revolutionaries’ heads in the factious struggles that ensued; and Clemenceau’s vindictive 1919 Versailles Treaty that ruined Germany and so set Europe ablaze a generation later.
Don’t expect anything but gaseous difficulties from a French lawyer. Frankly, anything that our hapless Government tries to agree now can be negotiated separately afterwards, when the costs of M. Barnier’s failure begin to bite the Continent. Let’s go now, without permission – let’s take “French leave.”
For all we wanted – what we were sold in the 1970s – was honest dealing and fair trading. What we have had ever since has been money-twisting and empire-building.
And that’s not new. It was a Frenchman who said it best, 670 years ago:
"Un Po Apres Le Temps d'Autonne"
From “Le Jugement du roy de Navarre” by Guillaume de Machaut (1349)
Translation by "Sackerson"
A little after autumn time
When those who cultivate the vine
Pick their grapes and fill the tun
And with work that’s lightly done
Each man offers to his fellow
Pears and grapes and peaches mellow
When in the soil the corn-seeds grow
And the leaf falls from the bough
By Nature’s or the wind’s design
In thirteen hundred forty-nine
On the ninth day of November
I was closed up in my chamber.
Had the sky been bright and clear
I should have gone to take the air
But the mountains and the meadows
Were hid in fog and deepest shadows
So I was taken by the gloom
Thinking in my lonely room
How all men everywhere are governed
By cronies meeting in the tavern
How truth and justice in the land
Are dead, slain by the hand
Of greed, who over them holds reign
As if she were a sovereign queen
How the rulers rob the ruled
Sack, plunder and assault the world
Crushing them in their distress
Merciless and pitiless
Great mischief seems it to my mind
When vice and power are combined