'We can still be friends after Brexit', MPs tell Germans

PUBLISHED: 11:37 01 February 2019

The front page of today's Die Welt. The headline reads 'Dear German, the British remain your friends'

The front page of today's Die Welt. The headline reads 'Dear German, the British remain your friends'

Die Welt

A cross-party group of MPs and peers have appealed for Britain and Germany to stay friends after Brexit.

In a letter published on the front of German newspaper Die Welt today, they acknowledged the “genuine sadness” felt by many at the UK’s impending departure from the EU, but insisted the two countries remain “very much on the same side”.

It was written in response to an emotional open letter to the Times last month from a string of high-profile Germans - from senior politicians to former footballer Jens Lehmann - appealing to Britain to stay.

And it comes after hardline Brexiteer Tory MP Mark Francois tore up a letter from Airbus’ German chief executive on live TV and made inflammatory comments about the Second World War and “bullying” Germans.

In their letter, the Germans cited their love of the “legendary British black humour”, milky tea, and going to the pub after work to drink ale, as well as the UK’s role in welcoming back Germany as a sovereign nation following the “horrors” of the Second World War.

In their reply, the British group - including Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames - responded in similar tone to what they said had been a “touching and funny reminder of all that we share”.

“Your words are a reminder that, for many Europeans, the EU is not about quotas, directives, rebates and control, but something more profound,” they wrote.

“It is a reminder that, for Germany, Europe was a salvation after the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s, that defeated and replaced nationalism as a defining cause. And a reminder that you feel genuine sadness at our departure from what you hoped was a shared mission.

“But we still want to be friends. We love your beer, your football, some of us even like your cooking. Given the challenges we face we need to stand together to champion the values of tolerance and openness that you say are our hallmark.”

The letter went on to state that the Brexit debate in the UK has shown the British as “divided and rancorous”.

“This threatens the British reputation for good sense and pragmatism, especially when the world is watching more closely than usual,” it said.

“Your letter has reminded us that, however we voted on Brexit, we must be clearer that we are not about to retreat from our global responsibilities. Brits are outward-looking and engaged with the world.”

It ended: “Whatever the mechanics and sub-clauses of our future relationship, the tone of the text is unchanged - we are still friends, and very much on the same side.”

The signatories to the letter include former Conservative Party chairwoman Baroness Warsi, Tory MPs Tom Tugendhat and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Labour MP Emma Reynolds and Labour peer Lord Wood of Anfield, as well as Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker.

In his attack last week, which came after Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said his company would have to make “potentially very harmful decisions for the UK” in the event of it leaving the EU with no deal, Francois tore up the letter and said: “My father, Reginald Francois, was a D-Day veteran. He never submitted to bullying by any German and neither will his son”.

He was widely condemned for the “Germanophobic” remarks.

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