Some foolish people may have imagined that the debate over Britain’s membership in the European Union, which will be decided in a popular referendum today, would be the occasion for a thoughtful conversation about the benefits and drawbacks of free trade, immigration, and globalization generally.
Like I said, foolish.
Instead its has been a race to the populist bottom, characterized by baseless claims and personal attacks on both sides. Even things that are manifestly supposed to be fun — flotillas on the Thames! — were made nasty with the addition of hoses spraying cold, polluted water on small children.
And you thought American politics was ugly. Stay classy, Britain!
With the vote finally under way, Germany’s biggest tabloid, Bild, is trying to lighten the mood a little bit with a cover story offering a number of tongue-in-cheek incentives to the British people to vote “Remain.” They are supposedly offered by their German friends in a spirit of camaraderie, tweaking British and German foibles along the way.
The biggest and boldest promise: Germans will finally stop arguing about England’s controversial last-minute goal in the 1966 World Cup, which put the game in overtime, allowing Britain to eke out a victory. The goal, scored by Geoff Hurst, bounced off the crossbar and landed on the goal line, but was deemed a goal by the referees, in a ruling bitterly contested by German soccer fans ever since.
Bild vows that if Britain remains in the EU, Germany will admit that the goal crossed the line.
Also on offer: Germans will begin drinking tea by the bucketful — apparently a reference to young British tourists drinking cocktails from buckets as they terrorize Mediterranean vacation spots — and forego sunscreen out of solidarity with their famously lobster-toned pasty British counterparts.
Another holiday-making-related promise: German tourists will no longer use towels to claim all the lounge chairs at tourist resorts. (Anyone who has seen Germans use rope to mark out their sunbathing spots on the beach knows this is no joke.)
Further, Bild promises that Germans will voluntarily, and without complaint, supply arch-villains for all future James Bond movies, though it’s unclear if this includes British actors affecting German accents.
And finally, the entire German nation will attend the Queen’s 100th birthday and — perhaps the winning offer — stop making fun of Prince Charles’ ears.