‘Brexit is happening… I feel surprisingly calm’: Brits in Germany react to UK election result

Britons across Germany on Friday spoke of their disappointment, sadness and worry over the UK general election result and impending Brexit which saw a huge victory for Boris Johnson.

'Brexit is happening... I feel surprisingly calm': Brits in Germany react to UK election result
Boris Johnson on Friday. Photo: DPA

Johnson is to return to Downing Street with a large majority after forecasts showed the Conservatives were set to win 364 seats after Thursday’s vote. 

The Prime Minister said it would give him a mandate to “get Brexit done” and take the UK out of the EU next month.

Labour is set to get 203 MPs, the SNP 48, the Liberal Democrats 12, Plaid Cymru four, the Greens one, and the Brexit Party none.

“There is no other way out than Brexit happening on January 31st,” Germany-based British political commentator Jon Worth told The Local on Friday morning. “Nothing can stop this now.”

Worth said the results show “there will now be a Brexit with a deal” although there could be some road bumps during the transition period and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit can't be ruled out in future.

For now it means “Brits living in European countries have some kind of degree of security at least until the end of 2020,” Worth said.

However, the hope of Brexit not happening “that stayed alive to a certain extent for the last three and a half years since the referendum is now definitively extinguished”.

On a personal note for Worth, who’s originally from Newport in South Wales, the result feels like closure.

“It feels like the last stage of a break-up,” he said. Worth described the process of fighting for Britain to remain in the EU as similar to “when you try to get your ex back and you kind of know it’s going to fail, and you know it’s not going to return to what it once was”. 

“I feel surprisingly calm about the whole situation,” he added. “I’ve kind of internalized all of this. I feel the country I once knew is no longer. Maybe I misunderstood the country from the beginning.”


'Fearing for the future'

Many Brits living in the Bundesrepublik said they felt “numb”, “let down” and “ashamed”. 

On campaign group British in Germany’s Facebook site, members shared their thoughts with the Local.

Terry Woods said he was “thankful that I got German citizenship earlier this year but still utterly despondent about the UK”.

Tim Manning said: “The UK I thought I knew vanished overnight. All I can say is that I am grateful to have had the chance to become a European citizen, living in Britain, Spain, Germany (where I've acquired dual nationality) and – from the start of 2020 – Ireland. And I'm sorry that UK citizens will face such a turbulent future.”

James Lock said he had a “heavy heart” but not for himself.

He said: “I'll be ok. The deal will secure my current rights while I remain in Germany. I have a heavy heart for the vulnerable, for the NHS for those who will die due to the actions of this government over the next years. For those close to me who will suffer. I'm ok, but I'm not ok. I'm glad not to be there.”

Kathleen Sharp said: “I feel extremely bad for the EU nationals living in the UK. I am also worried about my friends and family living there. I have more confidence that the German government will do right by me.”

Others are worried about being able to stay in Germany.

“I'm fearing for my future in Germany,” said Mathew Williams ” I know the German government have already stated all Brits living here can stay, but it'll be likely tied to a working visa.
“The company I work for is a startup and are currently not in profit. They might decide it's cheaper for them to simply get rid of me and hire someone else. Then I won't be able to stay. It would be devastating or me and my girlfriend, I can't go back to the UK without her, my life wouldn't have any meaning then.”
Berlin-based Rose Newell said: “I'm in mourning. I feel like my country has fundamentally changed.”
However, not every British person in Germany feels the same way.
On the Local's Facebook page Phil Marlow said: “I voted to remain in the referendum, but it's clear now that the UK has to leave the EU as soon as possible to end the uncertainty that's damaging the UK economy.
“Everyone needs to accept the situation and move on (except for the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland, who now have another question to think about).”

Brian Murphy said he was “over the moon” to “get Brexit done and we can move on with our lives”.


'Voices of Brits in Germany weren't heard'

Matt Bristow of British in Germany, which campaigns for the rights of Britons, said: “This feels like it's the end of the road for that hope that Brexit might somehow be avoided which would have been the best result for people here in Germany.

“But the results have gone the other way.”

The Sunderland vote count. Photo: DPA

He said the voices of British people in Germany and the rest of Europe weren't heard during the election campaign.

“That’s just a continuation of the last three and a half years,” he added.

'The hammer will fall on January 31st'

In the German press there was a feeling of resignation, like the inevitable is happening.

“After three and a half years of exhausting disputes over EU withdrawal, the hammer will fall on January 31st,” wrote Welt. “The United Kingdom is leaving the EU after almost 47 years.”

Spiegel described the Prime Minister as “King Boris”. 

Zeit said: “Boris Johnson has won, the tug-of-war is finally over… clarity at last.”

Worth added: “It’s a clarity that many Germans don’t like, but at least there is clarity. That’s certainly the feeling in Brussels circles. Better just get on with it and be done with this never-ending delay and argument.”

Worth added that many in the German political class view Johnson as a “British version of Trump” so maybe there’s a sense that “it’s best to get that out of the EU”.

READ ALSO: 'It's going to be confusing': What the Brexit deal means for Brits in Germany

What happens next?

Bristow from British in Germany said the “silver lining” is that a no-deal would likely be avoided in January next year, and the Withdrawal Agreement likely ratified.

“One positive we can take is the Conservatives have stated that they want to pass a Withdrawal Agreement so hopefully they stick to that promise,' he said. “If the UK leaves the EU with a Withdrawal Agreement at the end of January then that does at least provide people with a minimum level of security and rights.”

The focus is now on how the agreement will be implemented and what it means for Brits in Germany and other EU countries.

“There’s still not clarity yet from the German government on exactly what status people will get and how their rights under the agreement will be documented,” Bristow said.

“This is what I expect the German government will be working on over the next weeks and months. 

“People can feel reassured that if ratified, freedom of movement will continue over the transition period during which time they will have the opportunity to secure their future status.”

What should you do?

Brits in Germany should make sure they are registered, change their driving licence and have qualifications recognized. They should also keep an eye out on what their local Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) advises regarding residence permits. 

In the case of a deal, Britons will also have until the end of the transition period (likely December 2020 but that could be extended) to apply for German citizenship if they meet the criteria, and they'll still be able to keep their British citizenship.

Member comments

  1. The majority of British people made the decision that they did not want politicians in Brussels making decisions for them that they have no say in. Good for them! They still have the determination to be their own rulers. They have that in common with Americans.

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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.