Matt Bristow from British in Germany (BiG) told The Local that the group welcomed the “step forward” by the German government to bring in legislation that guarantees all British people and their family members living in Germany will receive residence permits if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.
Germany has previously said no British person will be forced to leave Germany as a result of Brexit but the draft law – called the Brexit-Aufenthalts-Überleitungsgesetz (Brexit Residence Transition Act) – goes a step further to provide reassurances to British nationals.
However, Bristow said the full text of the draft law must be viewed to check that it “covers everyone”. The Foreign Office has not yet published the details of the proposed legislation, which has to go through the Bundestag and would only come into force in the event of a no-deal.
The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that he wants to ensure the UK leaves the EU, whether a deal is in place or not by October 31st this year.
Becoming a Third Country National
In a no-deal scenario, British people living in Germany would assume the status of Third Country Nationals.
“We will be looking closely to see if it covers everyone, including those who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily qualify for standard Third Country National residence permits,” Bristow told The Local.
Details were missing from the German Foreign Office's announcement on the proposed legislation, Bristow said, such as what happens to pensioners in Germany who have their healthcare covered by the UK's NHS.
“Whilst it appears that the draft law will provide clarity around residence rights and access to the labour market, there are still many questions left unanswered,” he said.
“For example, what will happen to pensioners whose healthcare is currently paid by the UK? Will this group of people suddenly have to find hundreds of euros per month to pay for health insurance, as previous information has indeed suggested?
“At a time when the value of British pensions is falling for people living in Germany, this is money that many can ill-afford.”
Bristow said there were issues that “cannot be resolved unilaterally, or even in a bilateral agreement between the UK and Germany”.
“For example, to protect the state pensions of people who have worked in more than one EU country we need an agreement at European level,” he said.
British in Germany, which is a branch of British in Europe, is calling on governments to declare their support for ring-fencing the citizens’ rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement in the event that no overall deal can be agreed.
“We also still want to see British citizens living in the EU27 to continue to enjoy freedom of movement around the EU, as under current plans we would be landlocked, unable to move from one EU country to another,” Bristow said.
He added that there was “still a long way to go until all our existing rights are fully protected”.
No-deal to cause major job losses in Europe
The announcement came as a new study predicted a no-deal Brexit would result in the loss of 1.2 million jobs across Europe, including 291,930 in Germany.
Source: Leuven University
The study by Belgium's Leuven University found the country expected to suffer the most, perhaps not surprisingly, is the UK, where more than 500,000 jobs would be lost – up to five percent of its total workforce.
Ireland would be one of the worst-hit countries, as it stands to lose 50,330 jobs. Belgium too would lose a higher percentage of jobs, with 42,390 jobs expected to be cut there in a no-deal scenario.
Source: Leuven University
The study also looked at the potential impact if the UK left with an agreement. In that case, the number of jobs lost across Europe would be smaller – but still significant.
Germany, which has a high employment rate, would face 69,060 job losses even if Britain leaves the EU with an agreement.
Researchers took into account how supply chains across the EU and globally would be disrupted, as well as the countries' direct trade links with the UK.
To calculate the impact, researchers defined “leaving with an agreement” as a situation where the UK leaves the EU but remains part of the internal market or the European Customs Union.
For the projected no-deal scenario, researchers assumed the UK would leave the single market and fall back on trading rules of the World Trade Organization.