What a British spider is that

Comment: They're crazy, the British

"Storm again, again, dear friends!" Yes, the UK and mainland Europe have had an eventful history and a lot of brawls. The argument over whether or not the British should stay in the EU promises to be another epic adventure.

The official starting shot will be given this Friday - but let's not kid ourselves: The origin of all evil between the British and the forerunners of the EU goes back to 1984, when Margaret Thatcher her infamous dispute with the European Economic Community over the amount of British contributions taken to extremes. In a legendary tantrum at the Fontainebleau summit, she symbolically threw her handbag at her European colleagues.

Since then, the relationship between the British and the EU has been characterized by a love-hate relationship. Whereby: There is not much love to be felt, especially in Brussels. On the surface there is a grinding of teeth about the referendum and fear of the consequences of a Brexit for the EU. Because for the international radiance of the European project and the vision of a united political and economic superpower Europe, the British exit would be a disaster.

Do we really need the British?

But if you dig a little deeper, you quickly realize that the worries seem artificial. The French, as it is their own, let their laissez-faire attitude hang out: If in doubt, they would rather get rid of the annoying British today than tomorrow in order to cement their own claims to power within the EU and to restore the stuttering French-German engine To get going.

DW editor Robert Mudge

Speaking of Germany: As the de facto leader in Europe, Merkel must at least nominally support David Cameron's plans to reform the bureaucratic monster in Brussels. But is this more than a deception? Neither does Germany need Great Britain to underline its ambitions in Brussels, just as Berlin does not need anyone in the EU - at least no one trusts anyone - to master the refugee crisis in its favor (we all know whose idea and initiative the deal with Turkey was on goes back).

Cameron knows that he has done himself and the country a disservice with this referendum. This creeping insight has led him to try like a man possessed in the past few weeks to tame the specter and avert a possible "we want to stay outside" scenario.

A few days ago he wrote a guest commentary for the Daily Telegraph, in which he described in great detail why a Brexit would be "unnecessary and daring". One wonders why Cameron didn't fight with so much commitment and passion to stay in the EU years ago.

Cameron's tactics

Was it all supposed to have been charade and deception to appease his rebellious Tory backbenchers? Then, however, Cameron must be extremely weakened within his own party if he takes such a risk. And it is getting worse and worse: His hesitant behavior and his lurching course with regard to his involvement in the Panama Papers affair have now damaged his credibility and reputation even further.

On the other hand: His referendum plan could be a pure tactic to dup the other EU heads of state and government - and ultimately to save face. In the event that the British actually vote in favor of the exit, he could claim that he would have done everything possible to avoid this scenario and that he had explicitly pointed out the negative consequences. And anyway: he was against a referendum from the start.

"Nobody is an island"

Fortunately, most Britons are more sensible than Cameron thinks they are and do not get involved in his political farce. Admittedly, the lead is narrow - but in most surveys, the EU supporters are ahead.

The UK prides itself on being an island, proud of its ability to face adversity, proud of its underdog role in Europe. And it has every right to do so - regardless of the glee that the British in Brussels feel when things go wrong.

But therein lies the crux, as the English writer John Donne recognized and aptly described it in the 17th century: "Nobody is an island". Almost even more important is the passage that follows: "... whole in itself; every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the mainland. If a piece is washed into the sea, Europe is less."

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