British ambassador John Marshall delivered a witty and informative speech to the BCC Christmas lunch
Photo: LaLa La Photo
Forgoing jokes about Brexit, ambassador John Marshall nonetheless gave a Christmas lunch speech packed with humour and fascinating facts.
Photo: LaLa La Photo
It is tradition that the incumbent British ambassador to Luxembourg gives the keynote speech at the annual British Chamber of Commerce Christmas lunch. At his maiden luncheon speech last year, John Marshall peppered is address with jokes about Brexit that, he said, risked his career. “This year there will be no Brexit jokes…there will be many people here who do not think Brexit is a laughing matter,” he explained on Friday.
The ambassador followed introductory remarks by BCC chair Joanna Denton, who was making her first Christmas lunch address in the role. Guests enjoyed a three-course lunch and two lucky members won Luxair tickets to London.
But the ambassador could not ignore Brexit altogether, especially as the very morning that he spoke the European council had agreed that negotiations could be moved to phase two on transition and the future framework. “This is good news, as it is in all our interests to move the talks on.” Marshall said the focus must now be on “agreeing the detail of the time-limited implementation period that gives further certainty to people and businesses, and to settling the terms of an ambitious future partnership that delivers prosperity and security to the people of the UK and the remaining EU.”
Marshall acknowledged that there are concerns that the agreement on citizens’ rights does not go far enough, as the Commission offer does not guarantee current freedom of movement rights to UK citizens, which in some cases could threaten the way people earn their livelihood. “We haven’t given up on these issues,” he said. “And we will return to them in the second phase of the negotiations.”
The ambassador then moved in to slightly lighter fare and talked about the UK-Lux Links exhibition. This showcases some of the tweets he has made about the historical and contemporary, trivial and not so trivial, connections between the two countries that he has unearthed since taking up his post. For instance, “Luxembourg is one of 22 countries…that the UK has not invaded,” he joked. Marshall then explored some of his favourite items in the exhibition, including the fact that it was apparently at the suggestion of the Duke of Wellington that the duchy of Luxembourg became a grand duchy. “I take great satisfaction, too, that the two 19th century treaties that shaped Luxembourg today were both signed in London.”
Other snippets included the fact that the Royal Air Force’s first bombing of an industrial target was Luxembourg railway station in April 1918. Or that the first air transport connection between the two countries was from air fields in Esch-sur-Alzette and Croydon. Turning to culture, the ambassador also pointed out that JK Rowling made Luxembourg one of the stronger international teams as Quidditch--“having them slaughter Scotland in a Quidditch world cup game.” Luxembourg also gave more votes to the UK than any other country during the years it competed in Eurovision; and it was a Luxembourger, Camillo Felgen who translated the only two songs recorded by The Beatles in German, ‘Komm, gib mir deine Hand’ and ‘Sie liebt Dich, yeah, yeah, yeah’--“though I’m not sure he translated the ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’,” said Marshall.