Today, Jeremy Hunt, the foreign minister of the United Kingdom, has visited Berlin to request for cooperation in the Brexit talks and future security matters.
At the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Hunt talked about the shared values of openness and democracy that underpin the relationship between Britain and Germany. He also recalled some moments in history when “we are part of something greater than ourselves,” including the time of the Allied Airlift of 1948 which saved millions of Berliners from starvation during Stalin’s blockade of the city.
He said that such events transcend individuals, countries, and “transcend Brexit.”
He added: “Britain is not going away, we are not relocating our island… our two countries may no longer be bound by the structures of the European Union, but we will remain part of a wider alliance, an alliance of values.”
The bulk of the speech of Hunt was focused on how leaving the bloc should not affect the relationship between UK and Germany. He stated: “It would be enormous mistake if Europe were to allow Brexit or other internal challenges to make us introspective.” He urged “our European friends” to approach the crucial final stage of Brexit talks in the spirit of win-win openness.
Hunt said that he believed that the Brexit deal could be approved by parliament if the attorney-general of the UK was able to change his advice on its implications for the Irish backstop. He questioned if an extension to the March 29 deadline “really solves anything,” as the last thing people in both the UK and EU would want is a “Brexit paralysis.”
While in Berlin, Hunt is also set to meet Heiko Mass,his German counterpart, and Peter Altmaier, the economy minister.
As a response to a press question regarding the recent letter of Hunt to foreign minister Heiko Mass, asking that Germany reconsider its Saudi arms embargo, Hunt said that the policy of Britain with respect to arms exports is considered as one of the strictest in the world, and he would inform Mass that the strategic relationship that Britain has with Saudi Arabia is what enables the UK to have a huge influence in bringing about peace in Yemen.
Last November, the government of Germany announced a complete embargo on weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Last Tuesday, Der Spiegel reported on a letter, which Hunt sent to Mass on the 7th February, requesting Germany to reconsider its ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
According to Spiegel, Hunt slammed Germany of hurting the British defense industry, since it is not able to fulfil its orders without the German parts that are needed for missiles and jets. Hunt’s letter reportedly stated: “I am deeply concerned about the impact of the German government’s decision on the British and European arms industries and the consequences for Europe’s ability to fulfil its NATO commitments.”
Hunt cited the Tornado jets and Eurofighter Typhoon as planes that contain German parts and are affected by the German embargo. He said that it was imperative Berlin lift the embargo on the defence projects, or risk “a loss of confidence in the credibility of Germany as a partner.”