Former German ambassador: Brexit only 'headache number 25' for car industry

PUBLISHED: 10:24 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:25 30 October 2018

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A former German ambassador to the UK has poured cold water on Brexiteers' claims his nation's carmakers would insist on a good deal, saying it was only 'headache number 25' for the industry.

Thomas Matussek, who was Germany's ambassador to the UK from 2002 to 2006, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Brexit played "absolutely no role" in the nation's public discussions.

And he added that the integrity of the EU's single market was more important to Germany's vast car industry than forging a special Brexit deal for the UK.

The comments fly in the face of repeated claims by Brexiteers that the UK market was so important to the industry that German carmakers would force Chancellor Angela Merkel, who yesterday announced her impending retirement, to insist on a beneficial deal for Britain.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis all but used his first tour of Europe following the referendum result to mock local politicians about their lack of influence once the likes of BMW and Volkswagen started making their demands.

And John Longworth, a Brexit-supporter and former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, has insisted that as negotiations escalated the importance of the UK market to Germany would come into play.

But Mr Matussek said today: "In the German public discussion, Brexit plays absolutely no role, which I regret because it is important.

"It is sad and, for instance, the disruption of the financial markets... the people in the finance ministry I know are very worried.

"But, you know, it is sort of priced in, because even for business Germany, the integrity of the internal market is much more important than a special deal for Britain.

"But as it's so far down the line... I mean, people in the automobile industry tell me 'we have many headaches. This is headache number 25."

Earlier this month actor and Brexiteer Sir Michael Caine said he had seen that German car companies would ensure a good trade deal, without specifying exactly what development he had seen which had passed everybody else by.

"I've finally seen this week a little something of what I've said all along," he said.

"They've said 'imports, we're gonna impose these taxes from Britain' and you go 'wait a minute, has anybody told the boss of Volkswagen or Mercedes about this?'.

"And the German car companies have started to grumble about this tax."

Ms Merkel announced yesterday that she would step down as chancellor and retire from German politics by 2021 in an attempt to hand over to an anointed successor.

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