‘We must learn from this’: The German view on ‘Brexit chaos’

On ‘non-Brexit day’, the date the UK was supposed to leave the EU, we look at how Germany has been covering “Brexshit”.

'We must learn from this': The German view on 'Brexit chaos'
A float during Cologne carnival celebrations depicts Brexit. Photo: DPA

Germany has, like all countries in Europe, been watching events unfold in Britain closely. With headlines like “Brexshit” and “May’s Brexit Drama”, the focus has been on the chaos that’s taken over Westminster, a place that Germany used to think was built on pragmatism and reasoning.

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On top of ridiculing events in satirical shows, laughing hysterically at House of Commons speaker John Bercow and his “order, order” moments, and making fun of Brexit during carnival celebrations, some commentators in Germany have also taken a more sombre note to describe what’s been happening in the UK.

“Brexit teaches us that democracy needs leadership,” wrote Reinhold Michels in the Rheinische Post on Friday, March 29th, the day the UK had planned to leave the bloc.

SEE ALSO: QUIZ: Which European leaders gave these damning quotes about Brexit

“Brexit shows us there was hardly any leadership by the elected government” but plenty of persuasion by “brazen chatterboxes” like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, Michels said. “We must learn from this.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine on Friday led with: “Is there an end to the madness?”

Meanwhile, the Süddeutsche Zeitung focused its attention on Boris Johnson, calling him “one of the worst turncoats in British politics,” after he announced he would support May’s deal.

SEE ALSO: Brexit: Germany plans to extend transition period for Brits in case of no-deal

'The plot gets better'

Earlier in the week, Der Spiegel had been calling it “May’s Brexit Drama.” Many regional German newspapers have also been following the story, calling it “Brexit chaos”.

In a commentary piece published before the vote on Wednesday, Spiegel's Kevin Hagen said: “The UK is on the brink of the most important political event in post-war history – and absolutely nothing is clear. Is there a deal with the EU? When will the British leave? Will they leave at all?”

Bild, Germany’s biggest selling daily, were calling it “the next act in the Brexit drama — and the chaos has become even more confusing!”

SEE ALSO: OPINION: Why Germany struggles to understand the issues at heart of Brexit

Meanwhile, Zeit compared the drama to a TV series. “Most series flatten out after the second or third season, Brexit is different,” wrote Matthias Krupa. “The longer the series lasts, the better the plot becomes. The greatest episode so far came on Wednesday night.”

“Theresa May, the unfortunate protagonist of this story, has undoubtedly done a lot wrong,” he added. “But parliament is no wiser than the Prime Minister – that is the first lesson to be learnt from this vote. The second is that the political crisis that’s unfolding in Britain extends beyond Brexit.”

He added that it has “shaken the traditional order”.

SEE ALSO: 'Three weeks to find a miracle': Europe reacts to yet more Brexit chaos

'Europe is the answer'

It’s not just newspapers that have been commenting on Brexit. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have even used Brexit in their campaign ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.

“Brexit?” one of their poster reads, with a picture of Boris Johnson dangling in the sky carrying Union Jack flags. “Europe is the answer,” it continues, with “come together” written at the top.

Lars Klingbeil of the SPD tweeted: “What happens when populists get involved? Chaos. Our message to British citizens is clear: the door remains open for you. For us, Britain is part of the European Union.”

Last year there were comments by British media that Brexit was not making enough headlines on the continent. It's true that Britain's exit wasn't a top priority in Germany – but that changed after May received her first rejection in November last year.

And since the start of this year, newspapers across Germany have been leading with the story of Brexit frequently.

As we reported, on January 16th after MPs had voted against May’s plan, daily newspaper Bild ran with the headline: “Was für ein Brexshit!” (What Brexshit!), and in an opinion piece, it said the UK was “formerly known as the Island of Reason”.

It added: “In Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May has humiliatingly lost her most important vote – but that doesn't mean she's being chased out of office by the same large majority today. So she is stalking London like a political undead.

“It is sad to see the future of such a proud Great Britain being blown away.”

The Frankfurter Rundschau ran with a photo of British comedy character Mr Bean and a Hamlet quote: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.” The colloquial version is: “There's method in the madness.”

The Frankfurter Allgemeine ran with the headline: “Und, Jetzt?!” – “Now what?!”

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung didn't hold back.

“There is no glue that can be used to reassemble the British political system, which has disintegrated into a thousand splinters,” it said.

Member comments

  1. All this hand wringing by the neo-liberal elites and their corporate media is sickening. England will do just fine after Brexit and they will actually have democratically elected politicians making the decisions about their lives – instead of the German-run Brussels crowd! It´s the EU that is splintering, in case nobody is noticing (see: Italy, Hungary, and many more discontents!). And the German-run Euro is the greatest mistake all the periphery countries ever made (ask Greece!!!). Wake up.

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How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.