JANUARY is a notoriously cold month in Berlin and so it was in the last week when I visited the German capital.

More notable was the warmth of the welcome being extended to UK visitors in the bars, cafes and restaurants I found myself in, where sympathetic half-smiles were proffered along with heisse Schokolade and Schnapps.

The “B” word was on everybody’s lips, and I don’t mean Bratwurst. I knew there would be lots of Brexit banter during this trip. After all, many of my German friends are journalists, and the chaotic, grotesque, absurd behaviour of the Prime Minister and her party (not to mention the opposition) over the last few weeks and months invites ridicule.

Marianne Taylor: Don't waste your energy feeling sorry for Theresa May

I expected mockery and derision from Berliners. What I got, however, was something altogether different: heartbreak. This very emotional response came not only from my friends and former colleagues (I spent time living and working in the city a few years ago) but across the board from waitresses, barmen, shop assistants and the binmen at the apartment where I was staying.

On an intellectual level, most Germans have never been able to compute Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Germany has, after all, long viewed the UK as stable and sensible partner.

What I hadn’t fully appreciated, even when I lived there, was just how deep the affection goes. The sense of sadness and loss during recent my trip was visceral, as Germans young, old and in between couldn’t help but pour their hearts out unprompted about why they love the UK, each and every one of them entreating the British electorate to change our minds and overturn Brexit.

Why Germany remains hurt, but without the tears

We saw a flavour of this in the unprecedented letter sent recently by senior German politicians to the Times newspaper. “Britain has become part of who we are as Europeans,” implored the group, which included Angela Merkel’s possible successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. “From the bottom of our hearts, we want you to stay.”

Few in the UK know or even care how deeply many Germans appear to love, rather than merely respect, the British, probably because the feeling is not reciprocated. This is, on the most part, a one-sided, unrequited love affair.

Germans speak openly and from the heart of the UK’s cultural influence and soft power, the bands they grew up listening to, the TV shows they adore, the cutting-edge comedy, all consumed in English, of course, which for many is like a mother tongue. Many also talk of friends and family living in the UK (often in Scotland, I noticed), of favourite holiday destinations and lifelong friendships. Elderly West Berliners, meanwhile, refer movingly to the gratitude they still feel towards Britain for liberating the country during the Second World War.

Marianne Taylor: Don't waste your energy feeling sorry for Theresa May

And what do they get in return? In some parts of England the reponse is still likely to be chants of “two world wars and one world cup”. Only last week, Brexiter Mark Francois MP used the fact that his father was a D-Day veteran to warn of “German bullying” over Brexit. And who could miss the nonsensical, irresponsible Dunkirk spirit narrative being openly propagated in the last few weeks by those in favour of a no-deal Brexit?

To think that this lazy and imperious anti-German rhetoric still exists, indeed appears to be thriving in Brexit Britain, makes me ashamed, and also rather afraid. The arrogance and sheer ignorance of it is breathtaking, especially since in my experience Germans know and understand far more about Britain and the British than vice versa.

Indeed, it only highlights the stupidity of this arrogance when you take into consideration that despite its terrible recent history, economically Germany is far more successful than the UK. If only England had learned lessons from Germany’s post-war experience instead of continually bleating on about the 1966 world cup.

Why Germany remains hurt, but without the tears

Back in Berlin, meanwhile, amid all the talk of fondness and heartbreak, it was clear that Brexit elicited in Germans another emotion: betrayal, a feeling that a bond has been broken.

Walking the streets of the city, probably for the last time as an EU citizen, I also felt a sense of heartbreak and betrayal, not least because the Brexit vote and its terrible political, social and cultural aftermath in the UK have revealed a grim lack of understanding of everything this extraordinary city has come to represent.

You won’t hear many Germans say they are proud of their country, but their pride in being European is palpable and very moving.

Why Germany remains hurt, but without the tears

Nowhere in Europe is more deeply scarred by its recent past than Berlin; the brutality of the Nazism that flourished there, the cold war that followed, the wall that divided it for 28 years, are etched on the streets, buildings and people.

The city - indeed, the country as a whole - confronts rather than hides its past, constantly reminding us in the process why European unity is so precious.

And in choosing to throw this unity away, the UK is betraying what it helped create.