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'We'll move if they'll have us': The Brits who want to relocate to Germany as Brexit looms

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'We'll move if they'll have us': The Brits who want to relocate to Germany as Brexit looms
Dionne Kennedy, who is moving to Berlin in March. Photo: courtesy of Dionne Kennedy
16:25 CET+01:00
Many British residents have already moved to Germany with Brexit in mind. We spoke to people considering the move now or post March 29th, to find out how they think it will affect them.

Dionne Kennedy will be starting her new life in Germany just two weeks before Britain is set to officially leave the EU.

The 25-year-old journalist and social media manager from Glasgow, Scotland, has a job lined up in Berlin, and even has her registration form for applying to get a residence permit bookmarked on her laptop.

But she, understandably, still has concerns about her future.

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about Berlin's Brexit registering process

“It’s going to have an impact on me and on my move,” she tells The Local. “I’ve kept a bit of money aside in the event I would have to return home on short notice. But I’m trying to not let it stop me or affect me too much.”

Kennedy, who says she identifies as Scottish, British and European, is one of many people living in the UK who is desperate not to let Brexit get in the way of her plans to travel or live abroad.

The latest figures for 2018 show there are 117,225 British people living in Germany, across all states, a slight increase from the previous year. 

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

Many Brits have moved to Germany before Brexit with a view to strengthening their right to remain after. Meanwhile, the number of Brits applying for German citizenship has soared in the last two years.

UK flags at the 'Broken English' shop in Berlin. Photo: DPA

As The Local has reported, in 2016 and 2017 combined, 10,338 Brits across Germany obtained German citizenship, more than twice as many as in the previous 15 years, according to data from German statistics office Destatis.

SEE ALSO: Faced with Brexit, beloved British shop in Berlin to close down

Berlin is host to the largest British community in Germany, with the latest available figures up to December 2018 showing there were 16,210 Brits, according to data from Berlin and Brandenburg's Office of Statistics

Kennedy isn’t moving to the German capital because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, but it plays a part.

Mostly, she had always dreamed of living and working in another European country, a task made easier by freedom of movement rights.

But as things remain up in the air with no idea when or if a deal will be struck between Britain and its European neighbours, Kennedy says political squabbling isn’t going to stop her.

“I guess not doing it, not moving because of Brexit would feel like it's letting them win,” she says. “It would be like admitting defeat.”

SEE ALSO: On Brexit and belonging: Reflections of a Scot in Germany

'I'll do anything to remain an EU citizen'

Adam Turner-Heffer is also desperate to move to Germany to finish his studies – and is determined not to let Brexit get in his way.

The 30-year-old musician was previously studying for a Masters degree in Berlin but came back to the UK last year due to health problems and financial worries.

He is now saving up to return to Berlin, although he would also consider relocating to Hamburg and Düsseldorf, where his partner lives, in future too.

SEE ALSO: Brexit: Is it a good time to move to Germany?

“I am of course very concerned about what Brexit will mean for my rights as a citizen in the EU, and the ease of passage,” Turner-Heffer tells The Local. “But as there is still no concrete deal in place, there’s no real way of preparing for it other than being committed to returning to Berlin (or elsewhere in Germany) as I love the place and culture, and will do anything to remain a citizen of the EU even if my home country considers otherwise.”

Turner-Heffer says he has a few friends who have moved to the German capital as a result of Brexit.

This, he says, has “changed the city considerably, but also meant a lot of younger people (British or otherwise) are leaving the UK for what they consider brighter prospects in the EU”.

Looking ahead, Turner-Heffer says it will be harder for younger generations “to have the opportunity to move”.

He also says this will have a negative impact in terms of integration both in and out of the UK.

“However, there is a British mentality that exists that believes they have everything they need here anyway, hence the vote, but we will see with time how this works out,” he adds.

'Brexit could impact our business'

Adam and Becca Courtenay, who set up their own vegan business firm The Plantifull Food Co, have lived in London for 10 years but are “seriously considering” moving to Germany.

Becca and Adam Courtenay, who live in London and are considering a move to Germany. Photo: DPA

They also have their eye on Berlin, but are waiting to see what happens with Brexit before they relocate.

“The main catalyst for us to make that move will be what happens with Brexit,” Adam Courtenay, 33, tells The Local. “As a small food business we’re just starting to export into Europe as well so there could be negative implications on our business.”

Courtenay’s wife Becca is American, and although the pair haven’t experienced racism or bad feeling towards foreigners directly, they are also mindful of the UK becoming more closed and unfriendly towards immigrants.

“We are concerned about the wider implications of how people are viewed post-Brexit,” he says.

Berlin would be a good fit for the pair, Courtenay says, thanks to its history and vegan-friendly vibe.

“We want to be a part of something that encourages free thinking and doesn’t try and limit it which is the way the UK is heading towards at the moment,” he adds.

SEE ALSO: Prepare for Brexit: The ultimate checklist for Brits in Germany

Their real fear is that being self-employed and running a business would potentially make it more difficult for them to move.

“I think with potential visas it could be hard which would be sad,” he says.

Nevertheless, lots of people in their international social group have been thinking about fleeing the UK.

“Within our friendship group, 50-70 percent are looking into moving away from the UK,” he says. "Some are just talking about it but some are serious about it.”

For the Courtenays, their decision will likely depend on how Germany plans to treat British incomers post-Brexit.

“We’ll move if they’ll have us," he adds.

'I've put up a fight to get there'

Friends and colleagues have told Kennedy that it's a “smart move" for her to relocate now, before March 29th.

Kennedy acknowledges that things could be harder in the future, with more bureaucracy and less freedom than there is today. She believes Brexit will create barriers for people to move, especially if they don’t have in-demand skills, such as in the IT industry.

“It’s going to be something that will take a lot more time, energy and effort to plan,” says Kennedy.

But this is a generation that won’t give in easily.

“There’s that stubbornness of my generation thinking that we’ve had this and you’re taking it away from us, but we’re not going to give it up without a fight.”

Ultimately, Kennedy believes Brexit won’t put people off from moving.

“I think a lot of people will just do it (move) and live with the consequences,” she says. “If it means I’m only there for three months and I have to move back to the UK then fine. But I’ve not just backed out, I’ve put up a bit of fight to get there.”

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