UK’s focus on WWII fed anti-EU sentiment: German ambassador

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British Prime Minister David Cameron (C), and Britain's ambassador to the European Union, Ivan Rogers (R), leave after the first day of an EU - Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016. European Union leaders will on June 29, 2016 assess the damage from Britain's decision to leave the bloc and try to prevent further disintegration, as they meet for the first time without a British representative. / AFP / THIERRY CHARLIER (Photo credit should read THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany’s outgoing ambassador to London has suggested that Britain’s focus on its role in World War II was a factor in the country’s euroscepticism, in an interview published in Tuesday’s Guardian. Peter Ammon told the British newspaper that Brexit was “a tragedy” and warned that Britain was laboring under “illusions” about what its future relationship with the European Union might look like.

“History is always full of ambiguities and ups and downs, but if you focus only on how Britain stood alone in the war, how it stood against dominating Germany, well, it is a nice story, but does not solve any problem of today,” he said. “I spoke to many of the Brexiteers, and many of them said they wanted to preserve a British identity. Obviously every state is defined by its history, and some define themselves by what their father did in the war, and it gives them great personal pride,” he added.

The ambassador, who is due to retire from Germany’s diplomatic service later this month, rejected claims made during the campaign that Germany dominated the EU. “When I tell people in Germany I am confronted by this narrative occasionally in public debates they say: ‘This cannot be true. You are joking. This cannot be true. That is absurd’,” he said. He also suggested the British government had “illusions” about what sort of future trade deal could be agreed.

“The idea Britain can pick somewhere between a free trade deal combining elements of the Norway model and the Canada model will not work because the single market is built on a balanced agreement with the objective of creating a level playing field,” he said. Britain may not find it as easy to negotiate trade deals with countries outside the EU, once it leaves, he predicted, adding that the country’s “influence will be diminished”.

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