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

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

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.”

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'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.


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  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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