In the early 1980s Anthony Sargeant had a lovely Hungarian girl friend, Judit, whose elderly parents during their lives in the 20th Century and living through two World Wars, had had three different nationalities because of central European border changes: and that is not to mention the German Occupation during the Second World War.
Another example: Strasbourg was German then French then German then French again (albeit now within the German dominated EU).
Going further back in history one might consider the changes, not to mention the devastation of the 30 years war.
By contrast the island of Great Britain was not part of these upheavals – and so it is difficult for the British to truly understand the psyche of Continental Europeans.
Another example: In the 19th Century the European Powers appointed a German, King Otto, to govern Greece after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (Prince Phillip is of course a direct descendant). Curiously this ‘appointment’ was repeated in the 21st Century when the EU and European Central Bank effectively appointed an ex-Goldman Sachs Director as the Greek Prime Minister to enforce the ECB’s austerity requirements for the benefit of the Eurozone and thus the German economy.
Plus ca change …..
But one might also remark that in the 20th Century the Island status of Britain allowed it to stand alone against the overwhelming power of the German war machine. Without the English Channel separating England from Continental Europe the British would have been invaded by the Germans and would have become part of the Third Reich. The result would have been the murder of more European Jews as well as all British Jews and other ‘undesirables’. By standing alone and with great sacrifice of British civilians and military personnel (my own grandparents were killed in the London Blitz (25th May 1941) the British enabled Europe to escape the murderous regime of Germany’s Third Reich holding out against all the odds until the USA joined the war after Pearl Harbour. Perhaps some Europeans now forget the debt they owe the British which debt was incurred in my lifetime.