‘Brexit won’t affect Anglo-German relations’: William visits Düsseldorf with Angela Merkel

Prince William was in Düsseldorf yesterday, as he marked the 70th anniversary of the state of North-Rhein Westphalia with Chancellor Angela Merkel, commenting the recent Brexit vote would not weaken the relationship between Germany and Britain.

On a diplomatic visit on behalf of the British Government, The Duke of Cambridge celebrated 70 years of the German state created by British troops after WWII. He also honoured the role of British Forces Germany, some of whom are still based in the country, even 71 years after the conflict-occupation ended.

The 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade, based in Paderborn since 1951, was presented with the ‘NRW Fahnenband’ (state colours) by Prince William. It is the highest German honour that can be awarded to a military organisation. Musical performances were given and short films shown.

Crowds turned out in their hundreds to see the popular Prince, now 34. The future King served in the RAF for four years as a search-and-rescue pilot in Angelsey, and now works with the East Anglian Air Ambulance as a pilot.

“Operation Marriage” merged the regions of North Rhine, part of the largely Catholic Rhineland, and the predominantly Protestant Westphalia.

2020 is the date that all British military regiments are due to leave Germany, meaning the historic military connection between Britain and NRW will be largely severed. 5th Battalion the Rifles, of which Sophie, Countess of Wessex, is Colonel-in-Chief will also be leaving their Paderborn base.

“We will miss them when they’re no longer here” Hannelore Kraft, Minister President of NRW, said. The links between NRW and Britain continue in other ways, with 27,000 Brits living in the state, and 1,400 British firms having HQs there.

BFG deputy chief of staff Andy Thorne told press that William had noted the higher quality of life in Germany. “I never had the opportunity to serve in Germany,” but ‘wished’ he had done.

William happily posed for a photo with the son of the parade commander, who was trying to take a picture without his father seeing; he had been warned to keep his phone away. The Duke asked Ethan Wicks, 12: “Would you like a proper one?”

Yesterday was the first time William met the German Chancellor, Mrs Merkel, at an Armed Forces gala in NRW’s capital, and commented on Anglo-German relations after the UK’s exit from the European Union.

“I am pleased to wish North Rhine-Westphalia, on its 70th anniversary: Alles Gute!”, William began, testing out his German in an address at the Tonhalle.

“In short, what began 70 years ago as a relationship of necessity between an occupying power and a region in ruin, is today a partnership of genuine friendship and of massive mutual benefit.”

“This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union. The depth of our friendship with Germany and with North Rhine-Westphalia will not change,” the Duke commented.

“Bilaterally and internationally we will continue together to lead efforts to promote prosperity, security and stability in the world.”

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