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Diplomatic Relations: UK/Germany

Volume 619: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2017

7. What recent assessment he has made of the strength of diplomatic relations between Germany and the UK. (908036)

First, let me repeat the condolences that we have offered, and that I am sure that many Members will want to join me in offering, to the people of Germany for the terrible attack that they sustained on 19 December. We continue to work with our German counterparts to strengthen security. We have superb relations with Germany, and it is vital, both as we go through the Brexit process and beyond, that we deepen and intensify that friendship.

I associate myself with my right hon. Friend’s expression of condolence to the people of Berlin. Given that Germany is a net exporter to the United Kingdom and would not want its economy to be affected through the imposition of tariffs, what extra work is being done to build diplomatic relations for the benefit of future reciprocal free trade between our two countries?

I am grateful for that question because, as my hon. Friend will know very well, a big operation is now going on. UK Trade & Investment and British diplomacy are pointing out the salient facts that German investment in this country is responsible for around 344,000 jobs here in the UK, and UK investment in Germany is responsible for 222,000 jobs. It would be the height of insanity to imperil either of those sets of investments.

The Foreign Secretary speaks of our relationship with Germany as being very good and special. Is it not a fact that many leading Germans are concerned about Britain leaving the European Union and the impact that that will have on Europe’s security, particularly in terms of our commitment to NATO, given the instability we see in Russia?

The hon. Gentleman asks an acute question. Of all the countries in the EU and the rest of Europe that care about our departure, I would say that it is certainly the Germans who have been most psychologically and emotionally affected by the 23 June referendum result. That is why the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg) is so apposite and why engagement is vital.

On NATO and our joint defence, the hon. Gentleman should not forget that we contribute 25% of the EU’s defence expenditure, and that will continue, because while we may be leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe, and our commitment to Europe’s defence is undiminished.