Brexit Britain cannot escape its history and geography

Photographer: Jason Alden / Bloomberg

It’s easy to overlook the 1948 Gato Air Disaster Memorial in a city that has more than its fair share of 20th-century ghosts. A simple painting in Berlin’s Westend district commemorates the mid-air plane crash that killed 15 people during the early days of the Cold War.

The inscription on the stone may be unclear, but its location in St.George’s Anglican Church reflects a long-standing British presence in the German capital, and the events that mark it are a window into the pivotal role of the United Kingdom in shaping the postwar European order.

With Britain’s exit from the European Union Now real, The United Kingdom may discover that it is not easy to shake off a European identity rooted in history and geography. Indeed, it appears that this reality – and a political culture always dumped with questions about the relationship with its European neighbors – is destined to tie Britain to the continent for years to come, for all the government’s efforts to rename the nation as the world champion of international free trade.

Concerning Brexit, Britain cannot escape its history and geography

Remains of the Soviet Yak plane that collided with the Vickers plane near Berlin’s Gato Airport on April 5, 1948.

Photographer: Henry Burrows / AP Photo

After striking a trade deal with the European Union on Christmas Eve, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was time to move forward. The UK should leave “the old, dry, tired and compressed arguments behind” and “preserve Brexit,” he told the House of Commons on December 30 as he pushed the deal into law.

Given Britain’s post-war history, this end may be wishful thinking. In fact, the pro-Brexit camp has been guilty of underestimating the European dimension of the country’s past, according to Helen von Bismarck, Historian of Britain’s role in international relations in the twentieth century.

She said it provides a “very selective view of British history”. “That whole idea that we are now free to go back to where we really are – history doesn’t really prove that.”

Britain’s role in post-war Germany gives a sense of the extent of those continental ties. Berlin in 1948 was a city on the brink of a precipice when, in April, a Vickers plane from London via Hamburg collided with a Soviet Yak fighter as it approached the British RAF Gato airfield, killing 14 passengers and crew in addition to the pilot. Soviet. Each side blamed the other for an international incident that contributed to the rapid deterioration of relations between East and West.

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Within two months, London was the place to announce Allied plans to create a state in West Germany, angering Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who ordered Berlin to be cut off from the rest of Germany. It was the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who persuaded the Americans to take the lead in airlifting supplies and breaking the blockade, says the historian. Tony Judt He wrote in his 2005 book, After the War. The continent would be divided until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Germany - Berlin Wall - Society

The continent was divided until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Photographer: Gerard Malle / AFP / Getty Images

Washington and Moscow may have been the main actors in the Cold War, but Britain was at the center of the events that shaped the new European reality – even if it wasn’t until the 1970s that the UK had tied its fate to that of the continent. Join the pioneer of the political project set for the region, the European Union.

In February last year, days after the UK performed the results of the 2016 referendum and formally leaving the European Union, Johnson used a speech about Britain’s future after Brexit To say that the UK has “made a comeback after decades of hibernation” and is ready to resume its historic role as the leading global advocate of free trade.

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