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Faced with Brexit, beloved British shop in Berlin to close doors

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Faced with Brexit, beloved British shop in Berlin to close doors
Dale Carr in her store, Broken English. Photo: DPA
15:50 CET+01:00
Broken English, a shop full of UK-sourced delicacies, has had a presence in the German capital for 24 years. Yet with the unknown effect of Brexit looming, the curtain is falling on this much-loved store that relies on imported goods.

Jars of bright orange marmalade, oatcakes, retro sweets and boxes of tea line the shelves of Broken English, along with lots of other UK-sourced delicacies and gifts. 

But as Brits (as well as a few other nationalities) stock up on their favourite home-grown products, such as Galaxy chocolate, Branston Pickle and Jaffa Cakes, they have something else on their minds that they want to get off their chests. 

“These last few years since the Brexit referendum, there’s been nothing but conversations about Brexit, which is quite mind blowing,” says Dale Carr, who’s from Sheffield, England, and has lived in Berlin since 1978.

“We’re talking about it all the time with everyone.”

It’s coming to the end of an era for Carr, 66, who runs the shop in Kreuzberg’s Körtestraße with her husband Robin. Although they were planning to retire, the Brexit referendum result in 2016 was the catalyst in their decision to sell the shop.

SEE ALSO: 'What a Brexshit': How Germany is reacting to Brexit deal defeat

However, no one has come forward to take over Broken English, probably due to the fact that nobody, not even governments, knows how trading between the UK and EU will continue after March 29th.

“If they go for this hard Brexit then there will be no trading whatsoever, everything will grind to a halt,” Carr tells The Local.

Carr believes a new owner would have stepped up to take the reigns of the store if it weren't for the political situation that has resulted in uncertainty.

“It would have been a long-done deal if it wasn’t for Brexit," Carr says. "People do not know how we can trade and this is a problem for somebody making that decision (to take over the shop)."

So the Laden (shop), an institution in Berlin where people flock to buy goods like Scottish haggis, Marmite and baked beans, will close around the end of May.

SEE ALSO:  'They're fleeing Brexit': More Brits moving to Germany despite uncertainty

Union Jack flags in Broken English. Photo: DPA

Unanswered questions

In the event of a no-deal, there are a barrage of unanswered questions for traders such as: what paperwork will importers need to fill in to get products from the UK? How much would costs increase by? Would companies in the UK have the time and staff to fill in the extra paperwork needed to export products like jam, for example?

For small business owner Carr, it’s not a future she would want. “I know for me personally this would be too much,” she says.

SEE ALSO: Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit `train crash` after May's deal rejected

Carr and her husband have German passports now, but Carr says she is concerned for others who are not able to apply, if they haven't been in the country long enough for example. 

“We’ve obtained German citizenship but if I hadn’t had that I’d have probably been a basket case by now,” says Carr, who worked as a cleaner for the military based in Berlin in the years when she first arrived. 

“The worry is for the other people who don’t have it; they don’t know how their life will carry on. There are so many who don’t know how their qualifications will be recognized after Brexit.”

In the store, people of all ages are popping in, looking around and picking up a few items or larger purchases. One German man arrives to pick up his order of several jars of Marmite. 

Meanwhile, a notice written by the Berlin state asking Brits to register for a residence permit has been printed off and placed beside the till. Carr feels like she has a responsibility to inform the community around  her. "Some people don't know about registering," she says. "Some people don't have Facebook."

'Amazing customers'

Carr doesn't know how long the stock will last but predicts they'll carry on until the end of May. The lease runs out at the end of June. 

Even though Broken English, a labour of love that at one time existed in three locations across Berlin, is to close its doors, Carr says opening the shop all those years ago has had a remarkable effect on her life.

“It changed my entire life,” she says. “Not because I was selling baked beans and stuff like that, but because I was meeting really interesting people.

“It’s been an amazing thing to survive in business 20-odd years and that’s purely down to the amazing customers.”

Stay tuned tomorrow, when we spotlight the stories of British people across Germany to find out how Brexit is impacting their lives.

 
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