Why is January 31st important?
This is the date that is currently fixed as the exit day for the UK. There have been Brexit deadline days before – three of them in fact – but due to a combination of an agreement with the EU and a parliamentary majority for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this one looks likely to actually happen.
It's not a completely nailed-on certainty – both the UK and European parliaments still need to formally approve the exit – but it does look likely that UK will exit on this date under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement.
So what happens after January 31st?
Well, in practical terms for British people who either live in Germany or visit frequently, there are not a lot of changes.
After Brexit happens, all UK citizens who do not have dual nationality lose their EU citizenship and people living in Germany will no longer be able to vote in municipal elections or stand for office.
But if the UK goes out with a deal, a transition period will begin and during that period British people will still be free to come to Germany to live and work. And people already here can stay without needing a residency permit although they will likely need to apply for one if they haven't done so already.
How long does the transition period last?
At the moment the transition period ends on December 31st, 2020. It was originally intended as a two-year period during which the UK and the EU could negotiate their future trading agreement, but repeated Brexit delays from the original date of March 29th 2019 have whittled it down to just 11 months.
There is an option to extend it up to a maximum of two years (so until December 31st 2022 at the latest) but that would need to be agreed by June 2020. Trade experts say making a deal in just 11 months will be extremely difficult, but British PM Johnson is adamant that he will not ask for an extension (although it's worth pointing out that he also said that about the October 2019 Brexit date).
What happens at the end of the transition period?
At the end of the transition period, whenever it is, the UK then begins trading with the EU on new terms – either under the deal it has agreed during the transition period or under WTO rules if it has not managed to make a deal.
The end of the transition period also marks the end of freedom of movement rules for UK nationals.
For people contemplating making the move to Germany, it might be the time to do it now, or before the grace period ends. It is still not entirely clear what the requirements will be for British people wanting to make the move after the end of the transition period, but it could be similar to the process that the likes of American, Australian or Canadian citizens already have to go through.
They face much stricter requirements for residency than those offered to British people who are in the country by the end of the transition period, so if it is possible to make the move earlier that may well be the better option.
Are you preparing for Brexit? Photo: Depositphotos/dedivan1923
Are there any things I need to do now?
The transition period or grace period will give people time to sort out their status, but it's best to start preparing as soon as possible.
The framework of the Withdrawal Agreement gives anyone who is legally resident in Germany before the end of the transition period the right to stay.
German authorities have previously said that no British national would be forced to leave the country after Brexit happens.
What we do know is that everyone is required to have a residence permit, but just how residence permits for Brits will work is an issue that isn't clear.
“We will have different rights under the Withdrawal Agreement than is the case with standard residence permits, so I don't know if Germany will have to create a new category of residence permits in line with the Withdrawal Agreement,” Matt Bristow of campaign group British in Germany previously told The Local.
“That's something we don't know anything about yet.”
To get a residence permit, you have to submit an application to your local foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde). You have to be a legal resident in Germany to apply for this so if you have not done so already, register with your local residents registration office (Anmeldung) to obtain proof of residence.
Some foreigners authorities have already introduced a voluntary registration/application procedure before the UK leaves the EU.
Britons have permission to stay in Germany while their application is being processed, authorities say.
As Germany is a federal country, states differ on how they are implementing the residence permit process. Some states have already been asking people to register and apply for a permit voluntarily before Britain makes its exit.
Others have issued letters asking residents to book an appointment, while some states are asking British people to fill in a form online.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: DPA
Find information on your foreigners authority here. Note that you need a valid passport to be able to apply for a permit.
Authorities also previously told The Local that they would look at how to make it easier for groups such as pensioners, unemployed people or low earners to meet the requirements for a permit.
Back in March last year ahead of the original Brexit date, head of the Brexit Taskforce in Germany Axel Dittmann said: “Our very clear political objective is to ensure that all British citizens living in Germany can continue to live, work and study here.
“No British would have to leave Germany as a result of Brexit, including pensioners and welfare recipients.”
Brits across Germany are being urged to look into applying for a residence permit as soon as possible.
It is also worth checking that everything is in order with your health cover – through the S1 system if you are a pensioner or under the German healthcare system if you are working – and your driving licence, as well as your tax returns.
Brits have also been urged to get professional qualifications recognized.
If there are outstanding things that need to be arranged it will almost certainly be easier to do them during the transition period.
In the case of a deal, Britons will also have until the end of the transition period to apply for German citizenship if they meet the criteria, and they'll still be able to keep their British citizenship.
What don't we know?
As ever with Brexit, there are still plenty of unanswered questions.
The main ones concern exactly how residence permits will work for British people in Germany.
We also don't know exactly what the rules will be for British nationals moving to Germany after the end of the transition period and whether British people will need to exchange their driving licences for German ones once the transition period ends.
Germany had been preparing legislation in relation to a no-deal Brexit, so if the UK exits with a deal, this will all need to be re-visited.