• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Berlin Brits share fears and beers over Europe vote
"There's only one thing for it: we'll have to drink beer and have an argument in the pub". Photos: DPA

Berlin Brits share fears and beers over Europe vote

Tom Barfield · 25 Feb 2016, 10:32

Published: 25 Feb 2016 10:32 GMT+01:00

A panel of speakers, including EU blogger Jon Worth, Berlin correspondent for The Guardian Philip Oltermann, and writer and translator Brian Melican took the stage to explain just what to expect in the coming months.

With around 100 people gathered in a pub basement over beers, the numbers present were a small fraction of the roughly 107,000 of Her Majesty's subjects living in Germany.

The latest official figures report roughly 5,600 Brits living in Berlin – although the real number is likely higher as some British migrants do not bother with German registration procedures.

“This is an important issue for the individuals,” Jon Worth told the crowd. “What does it mean for us [if Britain votes to leave the European Union]?

“Do you [in Berlin] want to persuade friends back home to vote one way or another? Or is it about getting German citizenship as your alternative – maybe Berlin matters more to you than returning back to the UK?”

Four months to decide

With a referendum now set for June 23, there are four months for the “Leave” and “Remain” camps back home to make their cases.

And the battle lines are already drawn, Guardian journalist Oltermann explained, with Outers convinced that a deal struck by David Cameron at marathon negotiations two weeks ago is meaningless, while In campaigners say it fundamentally changes Britain's status in the Union.

Roughly 40 percent are firmly for each side and the remainder undecided, leaving the race just as close as the vote on Scottish independence in 2014.

Graphic: Financial Times

That's why Brian Melican - who recently obtained German citizenship - was on hand to walk other potential Germans through the process.

“I'm not much of a risk-taker – I live in Germany,” Melican told the crowd to a burst of laughter.

“Germans like to know what's going to happen in the future and I'm very German in that regard, so when this whole thing kicked off – for me the Conservative government being voted in meant that on the horizon there was a possibility Britain might not be in the EU.”

Berlin Brits fear for future

Many of the people in the audience told The Local that they were concerned about what Brexit might mean for them.

“I'm increasingly anxious,” Mancunian journalist Sophie Atkinson, 27, said. “I wanted to see in the worst-case scenario what my options are,” such as taking German citizenship.

“I worry that Britain will leave,” said Emily Wright, a 32-year-old student from Birmingham.

“I thought initially it's quite good that we're having the debate, because it's been festering so long. It would be great if we resoundingly voted to stay in, but that's clearly not going to be the case.”

“Having not just lived in Germany but also for a while in Spain and in Poland, there are so many benefits of being in the EU,” said Bedford native Melissa James, 25.

“Personally I've benefited and I don't really see the disadvantages.”

Becoming German

Plenty of people present were readying themselves to follow Melican's route of taking German citizenship.

That's an option for those who've lived in Germany for more than eight years – or more than six if they can demonstrate “special integration achievements”, like mastering the German language or doing voluntary work.

Those who have married a German citizen only need to demonstrate that they've lived in the country for three years.

“I've lived here for seven and a half years, so I'm quite far along for the citizenship application. I'd like the security,” said translator Ian Farrell, 29.

“No-one knows what's going to happen with the EU if we vote to leave, and I don't trust the British public to understand the situation properly – everyone just follows the media frenzy.”

Please don't go

The Local asked all our interviewees what their message would be for people back home.

“I wouldn't like to tell anybody how to vote. Try looking beyond what the mainstream media is telling you, try looking at what the EU actually does – the UK media just reports the negative,” translator Farrell said.

“We are quite grateful for the position we're in as British citizens and citizens of Europe,” said Rohit Kakar, 27, a human resources controller at German energy giant Eon.

“[Leaving] would be a selfish decision by the UK, there are plenty more problems out there.”

Story continues below…

“Europe isn't perfect, it has a lot of issues and it's going through a difficult time right now,” Emily Wright said.

“But we have to look at the long-term perspective. There are so many issues these days – the environment, climate change, immigration – maybe geographically Britain is an island but politically it's not.

“It's better to be in the EU, to co-operate with our neighbours and find common solutions that benefit everyone.”

SEE ALSO: 'It is a fair deal': Merkel defends EU-British accord

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom Barfield (tom.barfield@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Telekom warns all users to change passwords after scam
Photo: DPA.

German giant Deutsche Telekom is warning customers to change their passwords after finding that up to 120,000 customers' data was being sold on the black market.

Brexit vote
How Brits can escape to Germany and still feel at home
The store Broken English in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Giving up on the UK post-Brexit? Come to Germany - it's not so different!

German MPs file war crimes suit against Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: DPA

A group of German politicians and public figures have filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accusing him of committing war crimes against his country's Kurdish minority.

Brexit vote
Merkel: no backroom deals with UK on Brexit
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out on Monday informal talks with the UK on the terms of a Brexit, but said the EU should be patient with London.

Sartorial slip-up leads police to pipe bomb
A sign reading FCK CPS. Photo: Jürgen Telkmann / Flickr Creative Commons.

Police stopped a man because he was wearing a FCK CPS shirt, only to discover he had been making a pipe bomb.

Gay German MP 'violently arrested' at Istanbul demo
Volker Beck and Terry Reintken in Istanbul. Photo: DPA

One of the most prominent members of Germany's Green party has been arrested in Turkey after attending a banned demo at the end of Gay Pride Week.

Man Utd target blasts Germany to win over Slovakia
Julian Draxler (l) celebrates with Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller. Photo: DPA

Germany coach Joachim Löw appears to have found the right formula to get his attack firing at Euro 2016 after Julian Draxler's outstanding contribution in Sunday's 3-0 win over Slovakia.

Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
7,843
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd