Helmut Schmidt, Germany's Anglophile Chancellor

The West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt was an admirer of Britain from an early age. But his vision of European integration was not that of his British counterparts. 

Helmut Schmidt (far right) at the Helsinki Summit of 1975, with (from left) Harold Wilson, Gerald Ford and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

On 5 July 1957 the Bundestag voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Treaties of Rome, which are still at the heart of today’s European Union. Not all Germany’s parliamentarians played along. The young Helmut Schmidt – a brash, chain-smoking Social Democrat from Hamburg – refused to support the Treaties, largely because of British non-participation. ‘Much as I was convinced of the necessity of European integration’, he later reflected, ‘I then thought … that the EEC could never be successful in the absence of British experience and pragmatism.’

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