Brits in Germany
Can You Exit Brexit?
In June 2016, the people of Great Britain voted in favour of leaving the European Union by a narrow margin. Brexit is supposed to be completed in 2019. Currently more than 100,000 Brits live in Germany, and as EU citizens living abroad, their lives have been directly impacted by their country’s decision to leave. A few shared their thoughts on the issue and plans for the future.
Photo: © Naomi Ryland
Naomi Ryland lives in Germany since 2005. She is the founder and managing director of Berlin-based tbd*.
Right after the referendum I applied for German citizenship in addition to my British citizenship. I probably wouldn't have done that if Brexit hadn't happened, even though I've lived in Germany for ten years and built my own business here. I am really lucky I had the option; so many of my British friends are frantically trying to find some way to retain their EU citizenship. No one really knows how it will all affect us. I haven't given up hope that Brexit might not happen in the end. But if it does, I hope the EU and the UK maintain close, amiable ties, even if the behaviour of British politicians hasn't always merited it. I think the UK will probably be lost without the EU, a fact many Brits find very hard to accept.
Photo (detail): © Daniel Raisen
Daniel Raisen lives in Stuttgart and has worked as a translator in Germany since 2008.
Having lived in Germany all of my adult working life and having met my wife here, I had been thinking about obtaining German citizenship for quite some time. However, the shock result of the Brexit vote was an immediate wake-up call and forced me to act quickly. I've now become a German citizen whilst also retaining my British citizenship. So in this respect Brexit has already had a big impact on my life, even though I don't always feel it on a day-to-day basis now that my future in Europe is safe. The campaign run by the so-called "Brexiteers" was one of fear and mistruth, and it was sad to see my fellow citizens vote to leave the EU. I feel that people didn't necessarily understand the economic consequences, and the racial tension that has flourished in the wake of the Brexit vote is both horrifying and embarrassing.
Photo (detail): © Malcolm Bell
Malcolm Bell lives in Germany since 1978. He works as a translator in Goslar in Lower Saxony.
The Brexit vote really hit me hard emotionally. I had to deal with a whole range of new feelings - I was ashamed, disappointed, and angry with my country. After the referendum I applied to become a German citizen - partly because I was so furious. I can keep dual citizenship for now, but when the UK leaves the EU, I may be faced with a choice. Do I want to be British or European? I'd rather be European. I hope that calls for a second referendum gain traction in the UK. I have been closely following the issue in the British press, and think that many of those who voted for Brexit - especially in Northern England where I'm from -didn't really understand the consequences. A country that chooses isolation in an increasingly globalized world is swimming against the tide.
Photo (detail): © Sarah Blick
Sarah Blick is a graphic designer who moved to Berlin with her husband in 2017.
Before the Brexit vote happened, we were living in London. At the time, we were looking to move somewhere, but were mainly considering other cities within the UK. After the Brexit decision we realised that it would become a lot harder to move abroad into any of the EU countries post-Brexit and decided to look wider afield. My husband is a developer and always wanted to get to know Berlin. So we said: Let's go! He was offered a full-time position in Berlin last summer, we moved over in September and our baby was born in October in Germany. We will be here for two years now. When the result of the Brexit referendum came in, my first thought was: What has the UK done? I didn't think people would actually vote to leave; I always thought we were open and welcoming, and that we liked living with people from many cultures. London is so cosmopolitan and I've always enjoyed working with people from other cultures.
Photo (detail): © Daniel Abbott
Daniel Abbott is a graphic designer and artist who lives in Berlin since 2008.
Brexit is like a crack through our home, as I have a German wife and children. Although I wouldn't say I feel like a 'German', I now think that I should probably get German citizenship. I do a lot of international work and cooperation with people in London could now get more difficult. Brexit was a very emotional and strange thing for me, and it makes me feel further distanced from my homeland. I really didn't think people would actually vote to leave. Most Germans were even more surprised than the British, I think. On the day after the referendum, I went to pick up the kids and when I saw the other parents, they all asked me: "What has Britain done?" It really makes the future feel a lot more unstable. I think that a second referendum would divide Britain even more, but keeping as many ties with Europe as possible would be good.
Photo (detail): © Susanna Brackenbury
Susanna Brackenbury lives in Germany since 1996 and works as a teacher in Hamburg.
Apart from Brexit being a terrible shock, I was quite worried about my status as a civil servant, as it is connected to me being an EU citizen. I immediately applied for German citizenship and encouraged all my British friends to do the same. One positive effect is that I can now finally vote in Germany. As I had lived outside the UK for more than 14 years I could no longer vote there - not even in the referendum which so directly affected me. My own family is extremely divided on this issue. My German mother, who has lived in England (and Africa) since the early 1960s encouraged my English father to vote for Brexit. My father had always talked of retiring to Germany at some point and I now revel in telling him that he will hardly be able to do so post Brexit - despite his German wife - as he will not be able to transfer easily into the German health insurance. I feel a part of both countries and have taken advantage of the flexibility to work and live where I wish. I do hope the German government makes some clear concessions for other British citizens living in Germany. They should not be sacrificed for the desire within Europe to make Britain suffer for leaving the EU.