Politics

German diplomat lambasts Britain as he belittles UK politics as ‘archaic and sport-like’

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Peter Wittig, who worked as German ambassador to the UK from July 2018-April 2020, has made a scathing assessment of UK politics. He described the system as “archaic” and suggested that British politicians are averse to compromise.

Mr Wittig made the comments in an interview with German news site Der Spiegel, where he discussed his experiences in Britain.

The former diplomat said that British politics was vastly different to that in Germany.

He said: “From our point of view, politics in Great Britain still has many archaic elements.

“The constitutional historian Walter Bagehot called this the ‘dignified parts of the constitution’: the monarchy, the venerable customs – and the debate parliament.

“Britain is a country of speakers, and there is always a playful element to it.

“This has little to do with politics and parliament in Germany, where things are much more technocratic, serious and often a bit boring.

“You could occasionally even get surprising insights.”

Mr Wittig went on to describe UK politics as having a “sporting nature”, where each party is determined to win.

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He said: “You have to understand the sporting nature of these debates first.

“But of course it is also problematic that British politics always thinks only of winners and losers and knows no culture of compromise – this is also a big difference to Germany.”

But the former German ambassador did say that many of Britain’s leading politicians came across as “reasonable” when he spoke to them in person.

He said: “Take Brexit leaders like Jacob Rees-Mogg or Michael Gove.

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“They often gave passionate speeches in Parliament like in the Oxford Debating Society.

“Before you meet them in person, you think, oh God, those are really extreme views.

“But when you sit across from these people, it turns out they are very reasonable, listen and appear in a completely different light.”

The German diplomat also suggested the Brexit debate had altered British politics.

He said: “Due to Brexit, British politics has been in campaign mode since 2016.

“Indeed, this has given politics an ideological character, an escalation that did not exist before.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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