‘SOMEONE who lived through the Dresden bombings will be going, “That’s nothing!”’ says cheery German comedian Henning Wehn, who has swung by Metro’s local to reassure us that, despite a continually messy Brexit, everything is gonna be alright. ‘I’ve lived through the Berlin Wall coming down — by comparison Brexit really seems insignificant.’
He knocks back a pint of Abbot Ale that he’s been allowed to pour himself — the bar staff adore this panel-show favourite. His sing-song accent is frankly irresistible.
‘We’ve now had a period of 70 years without any war in Western Europe so with nothing else to worry about something as insignificant as Brexit all of a sudden gets an extra level of importance,’ he says. ‘Life would be considerably more dull if all that palaver wasn’t going on!’
In a nutshell, Wehn’s views on it are thus: there will be no winners or losers; he hopes history will be kind to Theresa May (‘it was the impossible job — normally if you go into a negotiation, you know what you want out of it’); he would have preferred Britain to stay in but thinks coming out might not be bad (‘Britain on its own is just too small by international standards but say the EU does fall apart, Britain is out of the blocks first — it might turn out at a strategic advantage’); he wasn’t worried about having to pay £65 for document formalities like the (now-scrapped) UK residency card; and, after 17 years on these shores, he intends to grow old here regardless.
Wehn’s view is that there will be no Brexit winners or losers and he hopes history is kind to May
In the meantime, Wehn has been following the Brexit action as ardently as he follows footy team Wycombe Wanderers, whose marketing department gave him his first job here all those years ago. He pours what he learns into his hilarious leveller of a live show, Get On With It!, which he’s currently touring.
‘Ask me on the 25th who the Brexit secretary is and it will be different on the 26th,’ he says. ‘I have to update it for every show.’ (We don’t ask him that but we do subject him to our EU pub quiz, below). He also has enough material to last him for plenty more shows to come. ‘Me talk about something else? That’s not going to happen,’ he laughs. ‘Because this show will definitely be followed by another, probably called Was It All Worth It?’
‘In mining villages in Yorkshire, to this day they can still debate which side of the 1984/5 strike you were on. Brexit will be like that for the whole nation.’
Before his follow-up, though, there are more pressing things to worry about: the monarchy and the huge amounts of money and personal wealth associated with the Premier League. He thinks that they have more of an adverse effect on everyday life than Brexit ever will, keeping us in our place in ways that are not to our benefit.
‘With the Premier League, the excessive wealth can make for vulgar role models,’ he says. ‘And with the royal family, how can you also talk about social mobility if the top spot is already taken?’
So that’s it — Brexit ain’t so bad after all, apparently. ‘Everything will be fine,’ says Wehn, raising his Union Jack tankard. ‘Rule Britannia!’
It’s England v Germany!
One reason Henning thinks Britain is better than Germany…
It has a smoking ban
‘It’s really good. They tried to introduce it in a few states in Germany and no one pays any attention to it. Because the pubs there think, “Well, if we implement it here, we’ll go out of business.” So they’re more prepared to pay the penalties in breach of the smoking ban than send people out. The pub culture is better here too — what I like here is that everyone after work goes straight to the pub. Whereas in Germany you can be in the same office as someone and even after 20 years you still only know them as Mr Such-And-Such.’
And one reason why he thinks Germany is better than Britain…
‘The Brexit debate is showing the first-past-the-post system in a very bad light. If there was proportional representation, voting for the smaller parties wouldn’t be a waste of a vote. And if you feel very strongly about, say, leaving at all costs or staying, then you would know who you can vote for.’
Question time: Wehn tries our EU pub quiz
Q1: When did the Maastricht Treaty, which established the EU, take effect?
Nearly… technically, it was ’93. Q2: Is Donald Tusk head of the European Commission or the European Council?
Correct. So for Q3, who’s head of the European Commission?
Is it Guy Verhofstadt?
Is it [Jean-Claude] Juncker?
Yes! 4: How many EU presidential or presidency positions are there?
Well, the golden rule of a corporate gig is that you have to have as many awards as there are titles — so I make that 27?
Well, 20 people will go home furious.
Q5: True or false: Britain is part of the Schengen area?
Correct! For a bonus point: Where is Schengen?
Hang on, hang on. In the Netherlands.
It’s in Luxembourg.
Oh for f***’s sake, that’s embarrassing.
Yes or no — does the EU have its own national anthem?
Well, it’s not a nation but they’re always playing Ode To Joy…
Yes, I’ll give that. Who wrote it? Beethoven?
Yes! Q7: Which other European country has left the EU since it was established? Clue: the country voted out of the then EEC in 1982 and left three years later.
That should be doable. Got to be one of the Scandinavians.
Nearly. It’s part of the Kingdom of Denmark…
Yes! OK, Q8. What is the Norway model?
No one knows what it actually is. They are in a thing… they still have freedom of movement, they have to take them all in. No one knows.
Q9: Name two of the five recognised candidates for future EU membership.
Serbia. Macedonia. Well, Albania probably wants in. Turkey’s been on the longlist forever and a day.
Can you name the last one?
It begins with M.
And it’s not Macedonia?
You’ve had Macedonia…
No [a very, very lengthy silence].
Malta is already in… [more silence]. So who is… so Romania is still…
Do you want a map? [Daniel the photographer chips in, thank God, with ‘Montenegro?’]
Montenegro! That’s a good shout!
Yes! Last question. The UK twice had its application to the EC/EEC rejected — in 1963 and 1967. Which country rejected its application both times?
It was the French! That’s it! You got six out of ten — not bad!
That’s actually something I really like about Britain… pub quizzes!
■ For tour dates visit henningwehn.de/tour