Fremdschämen not Schadenfreude: Germans sceptical of Brexit deadline delay

Political scientist Bernd Hüttemann, who serves as the Vice President of the European Movement International, said that the decision to delay the deadline was largely in the interests of both the EU and Germany – although the longer-term consequences are unclear.

“A delay doesn’t surprise us because many stakeholders are happy that we don’t have to see the real consequences of a real Brexit,” he said.

“Everyone knows that a no-deal Brexit would be harmful.”

This led to relief – a feeling which was most likely shared by many on both sides of the Channel.

“It’s like in life, when you are getting ready to jump – you really have to jump – but then you don’t have to jump,” he said.

‘Schadenfreude? No, I’d say more like Fremdschämen’

Overall, Hüttemann said the view in Germany was that British institutions – formerly viewed positively – had lost legitimacy.

“People are really surprised,” he told The Local. “For a long time people thought the British way of politics was a good one. Unlike other parts of European politics which were seen as bureaucratic and boring, British politics were seen positively,” he said.

“British politics have lost tremendously in the eyes of the German public. They’ve now fallen behind the European Union in terms of credibility. Now Brussels seems to be much more reasonable than London, which is very odd in Germany.”

Hüttemann said the feeling towards Brexit was not one of Schadenfreude – the German word for taking pleasure in the misfortune of others – but one of Fremdschämen – or the embarrassment felt for someone who has embarrassed themselves.

SEE ALSO: German word of the day: Fremdschämen

“Do you have a word for Fremdschämen in English? No? Well that’s why you have Brexit,” Hüttemann said.

Hütteman agreed with the assessment of London’s Financial Times which said the ‘conventional’ German view is that Brexit is “a stupid mistake which will cost the UK dearly”.

However he said that while the reaction of British institutions to the Brexit process has been surprising, the outcome of leaving the EU was in some ways predictable given the politics of the UK, which often uses Brussels as a “scapegoat”.

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