International Trade minister Greg Hands has revealed that his son wept when he was told the result of the Brexit referendum.
In an interview with HuffPost Germany, he explained that his nine-year-old had burst into tears, fearing his German mother and English father would have to split up.
Hands, who campaigned to Remain in the EU but now tours the world to drum up trade deals post-Brexit, spoke as he set out how UK would continue to build close trade and cultural links with Europe after 2019.
“My wife is German, my children are bilingual, and on the day of the referendum, or the day after, my son - who at the time was nine years old - cried over the result,” he said.
“It’s really like that also with us from time to time,” he added.
When quizzed on how he explained the Brexit decision to his son, he replied: “He didn’t really understand it. He may have thought that his mother and father would now be forced to separate.”
Asked by HuffPost UK what he meant by his remark about “also with us from time to time”, the minister said he had meant “it’s also emotional from time to time in our house”.
The 2016 EU referendum saw a stunning victory for the Vote Leave campaign, winning 52% of the votes to the Remain campaign’s 48%.
Hands stressed that his wife, like three million EU citizens living in Britain, would retain her rights following the deal hammered out between Theresa May and Brussels chiefs late last year.
“That was all worked out last autumn. I have a very great personal interest in this subject – around 16 percent of the people in my constituency, in London‘s Chelsea district, are actually EU citizens.
“In all, there are around three million EU citizens in the UK. They have an interest in there being security on both sides. They can continue to live their lives just as before.”
Hands spoke while he was in Tegernsee, Germany, attending the Ludwig-Erhard-Summit – of which HuffPost is the media partner - about Brexit and its consequences for Europe.
In the inteview with HP Germany’s Cherno Jobatey, he set out why the UK is almost as important as the USA as a trade partner for Europe - and why it is in the EU’s best interests to conclude a good trade agreement with Britain.
A fluent German and French speaker, the minister’s wife Irina teaches German in a London school, and he often impresses overseas colleagues with his backstory.
He lived for three years in West Berlin as a teenager and frequently visited Communist East Berlin and toured other Eastern European states in his youth.
The minister explained how he worked for McDonald’s, near the Zoological Garden railway station in the city.
“I flipped burgers, I minded the cash register. My boss even wanted to send me to the Hamburger University in Chicago. Unfortunately I had to decline, as I had already been accepted for a place at Cambridge.”
In recent days, EU chiefs have offered an olive branch to the UK, floating the idea of a second referendum or a return to the 27-country bloc if the public change their minds after leaving.
Speaking to HuffPost Germany, Hands stressed Theresa May was determined to deliver on the will of the British people as decided by the 2016 referendum.
“The decision has been made; there was a referendum. In the summer of 2016, 1.3 million more people voted for leaving than did for remaining. Now we must turn this vote into a success,” he said.
In a speech to British Chamber of Commerce in Hanover last year, Hands explained that he had “a lot of human capital in the British-German relationship”, as well as political capital through his links to Angela Merkel’s CDU party.
He joked at the time about his son’s national allegiances.
“Before the last World Cup, I asked my son, ‘Which country are you going to support in the tournament?’
″‘Papa,’ he said, ‘I will start with England and then switch to Germany’. He is a clever boy.”