THE 2010S Brexit

Figure 1. March against Brexit, London.

British citizens living in Berlin have raised fears about what Brexit will mean for them. What is Brexit? And how are the lives of Britons directly affected by their country’s decision to leave the EU?

In a now world-famous speech, former British Prime Minister Edward Heath claimed that, “We mark today, with this ceremony, the conclusion of arduous negotiations over more than ten years which have resulted in another great step forward towards the removal of divisions in Western Europe.”¹ The United Kingdom decided to sign the Treaty of Accession to the European Economic Community (EEC) in Brussels in 1972, thereby advancing the mission to unite Europe. However, 44 years after Edward Heath’s speech, the UK made the decision to withdraw from the European Union.

Brexit is a portmanteau derived from “British” and “exit”, and denotes the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union.

Reasons why Leave voters voted Leave

  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th

A: I wanted the UK to regain control over EU immigration
B: I didn’t want the EU to have any role in UK law-maing
C: I didn’t want the UK sending any more money to the EU
D: I wanted to teach British politicians a lesson

On the 23rd June 2016, the United Kingdom held its “Brexit referendum”, on the question of whether to remain in or leave the European Union. The recorded result of the Brexit referendum was that 51.89% of the British citizens voted to leave the European Union and 48.11% voted to remain. Thus the final result thus was decided only by a narrow margin.² “Several different surveys and opinion polls have since asked Britons why they voted the way they did in the EU referendum. The two main reasons people voted Leave were ‘immigration’ and ‘sovereignty’.”³

Reasons why Leave voters voted Leave according to Remain voters

  • DK*
  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th

A: Leavers wanted the UK to regain control over EU migration
B: Leavers didn’t want the EU to have any role in UK law-maing
C: Leavers didn’t want the UK sending any more money to the EU
D: Leavers wanted to teach British politicians a lesson
*DK=Don’t know

Reasons why Remain voters voted Remain

  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th

A: I was concerned that leaving the EU would damage the British economy
B: I was concerned that leaving the EU would undermine workers’ rights and environmental protections
C: I didn’t want the UK to abandon its partners in the EU
D: I have a strong attachment to Europe, and I believe in the European project

Reasons why Remain voters voted Remain, according to Leave voters

  • DK*
  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd
  • 4th

A: Remainers were concerned that leaving the EU would damage the British economy
B: Remainers were concerned that leaving the EU would undermine workers’ rights and environmental protections
C: Remainers didn’t want the UK to abandon its partners in the EU
D: Remainers have a strong attachment to Europe, and I believe in the European project
*DK=Don’t know

The last decade has seen a rapid growth of migration to Berlin. “Berlin has long been known as a multicultural and diverse city”⁴ and every year the total population of Berlin has an increase of around 48,000 people. Britons make up an increasingly larger proportion of the migrant population in Berlin, seeking German citizenship as well as a place of residence. In 2010, 712 British citizens migrated to Berlin. The number surged in 2016, when there were 2029 British who moved to the capital of Germany.⁵ In 2020, there are more than 11,500 UK-born people residing in Berlin.⁶

According to the data from the Berlin-Brandenburg Statistics Office, a total of 1,444 British citizens in Berlin and Brandenburg have obtained German citizenship after the Brexit referendum happened. This marks a twelvefold increase compared with the years 2013-2015, during which only 116 Britons became German citizens.⁷ Various newspapers are reporting that online registration applications are stuck in processing, as long queues of Britons rushed to immigration offices in Berlin to obtain German passports after the Brexit referendum.

The British migrants in Berlin have benefitted hugely from the structure of the European Union, with its specific institutional and legal regulations. The freedom of movement has probably been the most influential policy concerning the migration process, as British citizens (in their position of EU citizens) have “the right of persons to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States”.⁸ Migration between the UK and Germany for work, study, leisure, or for visiting family has been significantly simplified with the abolition of internal border controls.

However, due to Brexit, the fundamental rights for the British in Berlin are under threat. Britons who live in Berlin are starting to lose their sense of security because a the beneficial policies provided by the European Union for living in another member state will no longer apply to them. “The biggest difference which the UK’s departure from the EU will cause in this field is disruption to EU citizens’ and UK nationals’ migration and mobility rights on the territory of the other countries.”⁹ The right of residence of UK nationals living in Berlin, the right to work, the right to study in Berlin, and the right to family reunification—these are some of the central rights, which are currently under threat. All of a sudden, the Britons who live in Berlin will become third country nationals, while family members in Berlin are encountering challenges they had never imagined before.

Figure 2: The Put it to the People mass march in London

Regarding the right of residence, in order to obtain the right of residence after Brexit, British citizens in Berlin will need to submit an application. To be successful, numerous documents will need to prepared, including the infamous Anmeldung, proof of paid employment, proof of German health insurance, a German bank account, a German driver’s license, and savings equivalent to a year’s income. The legal right of residence must likewise be proven.

Regarding the right to work, the British will be faced with many restrictions if they want to move to Berlin to look for a job or to set up a business after the transition period (which is due to end in the end of 2020). According to a study by the European Parliament, “the WDA¹⁰ does not contain legal measures regarding the future movement of persons between the EU and the UK after the transition period.”¹¹ The possibility of having the right to move and work in Berlin freely will be gone. Considering the immense amount of uncertain procedures and limitations to both daily life and legal entitlements, it is now hard for British people to make decision to accept a job offer or start their business in Berlin in the future.

Regarding the right to study, the status concerning the opportunities to study in Berlin after Brexit remains unclear for many British students, as well as for German students going to the UK. After Britain’s withdrawal, EU citizens will have to pay higher fees and will not able to get student loans¹² if they want to study in the UK.¹³ It is believed that similar circumstances will apply to British students who are planning to study in Berlin. Additionally, a student visa will be needed, which will be a significant added concern for British students and will introduce a series of new hurdles. It is also very plausible that British students will no longer be eligible for funding via the Erasmus+ exchange programmes, and EU students may be hesitant to travel to the UK. The loss of this financial support will significantly affect students’ decisions to study in Berlin – the post-Brexit landscape is not a heartening prospect.

Living in Berlin will also be less attractive, due to the limitations of being “third country nationals” in Germany, which come with restrictions on a number of freedoms.

There are continuous debates and complaints regarding the right to family reunification. Only a limited group of people will be entitled to family reunification, namely “only direct family members (spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, dependent parents and grandparents)”.¹⁴ The relationship of the partners needs to exist before the end of the transition period, which means the right of family reunification doesn’t apply to future partners. Leaving future partners out of the agreement could have a considerable impact on younger generations who are living Berlin and who would potentially want to start a family at some point in the future.

The implications of Brexit for the Britons in Berlin do not seem favorable. The British will be faced with many obstacles in the near future in their personal and professional lives. Living in Berlin will also be less attractive, due to the limitations of being “third country nationals” in Germany, which come with restrictions on a number of freedoms. Dealing with post-Brexit uncertainty is a big enough challenge, and now the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating an already difficult situation.

However, the “Leave” campaign cited multiple benefits that the British would gain from Brexit, including immigration control and the restoration of British sovereignty. After Brexit, the UK will govern its law without reference to the EU and will never again be overruled by the European Court of Justice. Immigration would be under control, with migrant intake limited to skilled migrants, according to the Government’s wishes. It is claimed that this could reduce the strain on public services like the NHS, and ensure enough employment opportunities for British citizens. Meanwhile, the UK would be able to save the EU membership fee and invest approximately 350 million pounds per week into infrastructure such as schools, housing and the NHS.¹⁵

Figure 3: The Stop Brexit march in London.

1. “Berlin Population 2020.” World Population Review. URL: https://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/berlin-population/#popData (last accessed 13 June 2020); 2. “Brexit and Migration.” European Parliament.  URL: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/608835/IPOL_STU(2018)608835_EN.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 3. Carl, N. CSI “Brexit 4: Reasons Why People Voted Leave or Remain.” Centre for Social Investigation. 2018. URL: http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Carl_Reasons_Voting.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 4. Clarke, Harold D., Matthew Goodwin, and Paul Whiteley. Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017; 5. Heath, Edward. Speech by Mr Edward Heath, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. [en ligne]. In Bulletin of the European Communities. Luxembourg: Office des Publications Officielles des Communautés Européennes. 02-1972. No 2, pp. 25-27. URL: https://www.cvce.eu/s/9n (last accessed 13 June 2020); 6. “Immer mehr Briten in der Region werden deutsche Staatsbürger.” Das Amt für Statistik Berlin- Brandenburg.2019. URL:https://www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/pms/2019/19-05-13.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 7. “Living in Europe.” Government of the United Kingdom. URL: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-europe (last accessed 13 June 2020); 8. Marzocchi,Ottavio. “Free movement of persons.” European Parliament. February 2020. URL:  https://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/147/free-movement-of-persons#:~:text=It%20is%20this%20EU%20citizenship,of%20Freedom%2C%20Security%20and%20Justice(last accessed 13 June 2020)9. Niemann-Ahrendt, Katja. “Die Anziehungskraft Berlins.” Das Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg2017. URL: https://www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/publikationen/aufsaetze/2017/HZ_201704-08.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 10. OECD .Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Berlin. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2018; 11. “Results and turnout at the EU referendum.” The Electoral Commission. July 2019. URL: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past- elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/results-and-turnout-eu-referendum (last accessed 13 June 2020); 12. The UK’s future skills-based immigration system.” Government of the United Kingdom.December  2018. URL: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/766465/The-UKs-future-skills-based-immigration-system-print-ready.pdf  (last accessed 13 June 2020). 

Figure 1: March against Brexit, London © Unsplash
Figure 2: The Put it to the People mass march in London © Unsplash
Figure 3: The Stop Brexit march in London © Unsplash

1. “Berlin Population 2020.” World Population Review. URL: https://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/berlin-population/#popData (last accessed 13 June 2020); 2. “Brexit and Migration.” European Parliament.  URL: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2018/608835/IPOL_STU(2018)608835_EN.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 3. Carl, N. CSI “Brexit 4: Reasons Why People Voted Leave or Remain.” Centre for Social Investigation. 2018. URL: http://csi.nuff.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Carl_Reasons_Voting.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 4. Clarke, Harold D., Matthew Goodwin, and Paul Whiteley.Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017; 5. Heath, Edward. Speech by Mr Edward Heath, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. [en ligne]. In Bulletin of the European Communities. Luxembourg: Office des Publications Officielles des Communautés Européennes. 02-1972. No 2, pp. 25-27. URL: https://www.cvce.eu/s/9n (last accessed 13 June 2020); 6. “Immer mehr Briten in der Region werden deutsche Staatsbürger.” Das Amt für Statistik Berlin- Brandenburg. 2019. URL:https://www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/pms/2019/19-05-13.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 7. “Living in Europe.” Government of the United Kingdom. URL: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/living-in-europe (last accessed 13 June 2020); 8. Marzocchi, Ottavio. “Free movement of persons.” European Parliament. February 2020. URL:  https://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/147/free-movement-of-persons#:~:text=It%20is%20this%20EU%20citizenship,of%20Freedom%2C%20Security%20and%20Justice(last accessed 13 June 2020)9. Niemann-Ahrendt, Katja. “Die Anziehungskraft Berlins.” Das Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg2017. URL: https://www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/publikationen/aufsaetze/2017/HZ_201704-08.pdf (last accessed 13 June 2020); 10. OECD. Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Berlin. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2018; 11. “Results and turnout at the EU referendum.” The Electoral Commission. July 2019. URL: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past- elections-and-referendums/eu-referendum/results-and-turnout-eu-referendum (last accessed 13 June 2020); 12. The UK’s future skills-based immigration system.” Government of the United Kingdom.December  2018. URL: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/766465/The-UKs-future-skills-based-immigration-system-print-ready.pdf  (last accessed 13 June 2020).