Brexit was on the front page of almost every German newspaper on Friday. The Frankfurter Rundschau ran with a simple “auf Wiedersehen” (goodbye) headline.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said: “Finally it’s time,” and suggested those who need cheering up should listen to the Monty Python song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
Meanwhile, German daily Taz ran with the headline: “Goodbye and good luck” with two pairs of shoes on the front page
— Tom Barfield (@tombarfield) January 31, 2020
And Spiegel ran a video called: 'Tschüss, adios und goodbye' featuring clips of people across Europe wishing the UK the best.
On Saturday February 1st, die Welt ran with this powerful front page:
— Thore Barfuss (@leerstelle) January 31, 2020
As the UK prepares to officially leave the bloc, many Germans still struggle to understand why Brits voted for it.
- I'm giving up my UK passport: Brits in Germany share their heartbreak over Brexit day
- Brexit: What should Brits think about before January 31st
Linne Selle, president of the European Movement Germany told The Local Brexit was a “sad victory for populism and nationalism”.
“Personally I feel it’s a historic mistake and it will be to the detriment of all of us,” she said.
“I think in Germany the perception is mostly that it is a mistake although most politicians accept the democratic decision of the British people. But there will be consequences and I think in Germany the consequences will be felt. Not immediately but when the transition period ends.
“So everybody is in this brace position at the moment and we’ll see what the negotiations bring.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that Britain's departure from the EU “cuts deep” and warned of “intensive negotiations” this year over the two parties' future relationship, reported AFP.
“It cuts deep for Germany and all the remaining 27 member states, but we want to remain a close partner and friend of Britain,” said Merkel in a video statement broadcast mere hours before the UK's membership ends.
“We are going to hold intensive negotiations with the British – that will define this year, particularly in the areas of economy and trade,” said Merkel.
She added that Europe would defend its interests, especially when it came to the integrity of the single market.
“A lot will depend on Britain. The more Britain moves away from the conditions of the single market, the more our future relationship will have to change,” she cautioned.
Brits will have rights protected
For Britons in Germany, there won't be many immediate changes, but officials sought to reassure Brits.
Axel Dittmann, head of the Brexit taskforce in Germany, told The Local: “It remains our top priority to protect the rights of citizens both in the UK and the EU following the withdrawal.
“The Withdrawal Agreement safeguards the rights of over 3 million EU citizens in the UK, and over 1 million UK nationals in EU countries, including the community of more than 100,000 British citizens living in Germany.”
Dittmann said those who live in Germany before the end of the transition period on December 31st 2020 will have their rights protected after the grace period.
“Britons and their family members will maintain a special status which will allow them to extend their stay in our country indefinitely, as long as they have made the decision to continue to live here in Germany before the end of the transition period, and continue to live here thereafter.
Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel in Berlin last August. Photo: DPA
“Therefore, they are free to continue to live, work, study and benefit from social security in Germany. The concrete administrative steps citizens have to take before the transition phase ends are currently being developed.
“The Federal Ministry of the Interior, together with the local foreigners’ authorities, will provide timely information. at the moment, there is no urgent need for immediate action on their part for securing their status.”
British Ambassador to Germany Sir Sebastian Wood said: “Britain is leaving the EU, but not Europe. Whatever the exact shape of our future relationship, Britain and Germany will always remain close partners and friends.
“I am pleased that the Withdrawal Agreement gives British nationals living in Germany clarity, guaranteeing that they can continue their lives essentially as they do now.
“I am aware that some important questions remain, such as onward movement and arrangements for mobile workers. The UK and EU will discuss these during negotiations of our future partnership, which will begin shortly after our exit from the EU.”
'We will always have a place for you'
There's also hope from Germany that the UK might return to the EU in future.
Dittmann said: “This decision by the UK is something which I regret deeply both on a professional and on a personal level, but a reality that we have to deal with.
“I can only repeat what Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in his interview with Die Zeit on 29 January 2020: “But should this farewell ever turn out to be less final than anticipated, rest assured that we will always have a place for you at our table in Brussels.”
Selle, of the European Movement Germany, said: “Of course Europe remains open to Great Britain and Great Britain can always reapply to membership. I think this is a silver lining – the Brits shouldn’t forget that maybe one day they can come back to the club.”