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8 New J. Eur. Crim. L. 3 (2017)

handle is hein.journals/newjecla8 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Editorial                                                      NJECL

                                                                  Newjournal of European Criminal Law
                                                                              2017, Vol. 8(l) 3-5
W    er   frem      de    Sprachen                                         ©K The Author(s) 2017
                                                                          Reprints and permissions:
nicht kennt ...                                                     DOl: 10.1 177/2032284417699270

The  aphorism, from that universal genius, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is, in full, 'Werfremde
Sprachen  nicht kennt, weiss nichts von seiner eigenen'. An English rendering might be 'Those who
know  no foreign languages, know nothing of their own'. I hold this to be true. It is also true that if
one knows  no foreign language, then one cannot fully comprehend any foreign culture or thought
process and cannot  in consequence relate to other linguistic and cultural communities, except
through the narrow prism of one's monoculture. If this does not lead to contempt or disdain for
others or to fear of things alien, it can result in an attitude of superiority: our language, our culture
as a hallmark of personal quality and civilization.
   The converse is also true that exposure to and knowledge of other languages and cultures leads
to better knowledge and understanding of one's own as well as to broadening one's vision and
generating respect and sympathy for others.
   This brings me to an article published by Professor Nicholas Boyle of Cambridge University in
the New  European  of 17 January 2017 under the title 'The problem with the English: England
doesn 't want to be just another member of a team'. The reasoning behind the title is that England
still (mistakenly) believes in its own exceptionalism. The article thus gives a clear insight into the
psychological reasons that unleashed an emotion so strong that the English 'threw reason and
practicality to the winds' and voted to exit the European Union (EU).
   Professor Boyle is an emeritus professor of German at the University of Cambridge and one of
the world's preeminent Goethe  scholars. From this may stem his incisive grasp of the English
psyche  and of the previously dormant  forces which once released have produced  the Brexit
stampede,  seemingly unstoppable, despite the direct and collateral damage it will cause. He,
although English, sees the English as others see them, that is, in a way they cannot see themselves.
   The Professor's article has led me to the answer which had previously eluded me. The question
was  this: every member state of the EU has its common   law and every member   state has to
reconcile its sovereignty with EU membership,   so why  is it that the United Kingdom is so
concerned  with its sovereignty (in particular with the English doctrine of parliamentary sover-
eignty) and feels such a compelling need to protect English common law against encroachment by
EU  law that it has consistently insisted on exceptional treatment in the form of opt-outs? What is so
intrinsically special or superior about English common law? What is so admirable about a con-
stitutional doctrine that rather than constraining state power, which all modern constitutions seek to
do, actually glorifies the very absence of such constraints?
   The  answer, prompted  by my  reading of Professor Boyle's paper, is that there is nothing
intrinsically better about the English common law or the English constitution, but this truth,
although clear to all others, is not seen by the English. They hold the opposite to be true and thus
demand  exceptional treatment to avoid what they see as detrimental contamination. This has now

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