British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday called a snap general election for June 8th, claiming that it was necessary to stop her political opponents from jeopardizing Brexit negotiations. The decision still needs to be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the British parliament.
The announcement was met with trepidation by Brits living in Germany, who fear that it will strengthen the forces in British politics seeking to drive through a hard Brexit – a state of affairs which would pull the UK out of the European single market.
“I imagine the Conservatives will win by a landslide. Their visions for the future are very scary for Brits living in Europe,” Alice Diaper, 28, who moved to Erlangen, Bavaria in October, told The Local.
Like many German-based Brits The Local spoke to, Diaper is weighing up whether to cast her ballot for Labour or the Liberal Democrats in an attempt to defeat the euro-sceptic Tory party at the polls.
Both parties trail the Conservatives massively in the polls, with May’s party leading Labour by 18 to 20 points. The Liberal Democrats are languishing in fourth behind the far-right UKIP on around 10 percent, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published on Tuesday.
In the end, Diaper says she will probably plump for the Liberal Democrats purely for tactical reasons, as they have a better chance of unseating the Tory incumbent in her home constituency.
A teacher by trade, she expresses her anger at how the general election will likely turn on the single issue of Brexit when “British state schools are atrociously underfunded.”
“Very real problems are going to end up being ignored. Anything that Labour or the Liberal Democrats can say that goes beyond Brexit will be a plus for me.”
Support for Lib Dems
Malcolm Sullivan, a freelance political consultant who moved to Berlin from London in 2016, said that he would be voting for the Liberal Democrats.
The 33-year-old told The Local that his voting intentions were based around which party aligned most closely with his views on future relations with the EU.
“For me it is very much about Brexit. I think the Liberal Democrats have done a reasonably good job of providing an opposition on that issue,” he said.
Sullivan, a Tory party member who switched to the Liberal Democrats in 2015, said the Liberals, who have called for a second referendum on relations with the EU, are best placed to ward off a “hard Brexit.”
Claire Crossland Naujoks will also likely be voting Liberal Democrat on June 8th, although she hasn’t definitively made up her mind yet.
She described them as “the closest thing to an anti-Brexit party there is.”
“If Labour come out and say they are against a hard Brexit, then it would probably sway me. But I don’t have faith in [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn to do that – he is too afraid of losing votes in northern England,” the 34-year-old said.
Crossland Naujoks, who came to Germany 12 years ago and now works outside Frankfurt as a teacher, was motivated to get a German passport after Brits voted in June 2016 to leave the EU.
“For me personally it is a single-issue election [about Brexit], but I’m living outside the UK,” she said.
The Shropshire native feared though that the election would lead to “the annihilation of the Labour party” and “massively weaken Remain voices.”
‘The Brexit boat has sailed’
Negotiations on leaving the UK weren’t in the foreground of all British expats' minds, though.
“Brexit is less important than before. I don’t think any new government can reverse the declaration of Article 50,” said Michelle Purse, who lives in Mannheim.
“I think the Brexit boat has sailed,” she added.
Because Purse has lived in Germany for 14 years, this will be the last time she will get to vote in a British election, due to a law banning Brits who have lived abroad for 15 years or longer from casting their ballot.
“This is the last time I will vote, and that makes it the most important vote of my lifetime,” she noted.
She is also considering voting strategically for the first time ever, although she is ideologically a Labour voter who complains bitterly that the Tories are running the National Health Service and education system into the ground.
“I want to do everything in my power to stop the Tories from ruining what is left of public services in Britain,” she said.
Rhiannon Beswick is another Labour voter who is thinking about voting Liberal Democrat as a tactic to defeat her Tory MP.
While the 47-year-old now lives near Frankfurt, she will vote in a wealthy south London seat, where constituents voted against leaving the EU last June.
“It is a Tory area and, if anything, the voters there might be more likely to vote Liberal. I would rather have the Liberals than the Tories. The good thing about the Lib Dems is that they are against Brexit,” she mused.
David Tunnicliffe, a 30-year-old translator living in Thuringia, said that he would also consider a strategic vote, even though he comes from a family of Labour supporters.
But he added that he didn’t trust the Liberal Democrats to keep their promises, saying his generation had already been betrayed once by them.
He said he still believed that Labour were “the only option”, despite voicing anger that Labour leader Corbyn had never been clear on his attitude towards Brexit.
“I don’t even know if he is for it or against it,” he remarked.
For Tunnicliffe the outcome of the election is only likely to be bad news for Brits living in Germany.
“If May wins she will get the freedom to choose what Brexit she wants, and that probably means an end to freedom of movement.”