Auf Wiedersehen, pet? Britons in Berlin mull a post-Brexit future

Around 106,000 British people live in Germany, having moved from the European Union's half-hearted member state to one of the bloc's greatest cheerleaders.

dpa speaks to some of them about the June 23 British referendum on EU membership. In the words of a 1980s comedy about British migrant builders in Dusseldorf: Will it be "Auf Wiedersehen, pet"?

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"I often attend conferences or go to events in different areas of the EU so I would like to hold onto my EU passport," says Rose Newell, a self-employed translator, copywriter and marketing consultant.

Rose is voting to stay in the EU. But should the majority of Brits vote otherwise, she may be forced to turn to a contingency plan - even if the options don't particularly appeal to her.

She could, for example, marry her German partner. "I'm not actually against marriage, but ... I don't ever want to be in a position where I'm staying in a relationship for visa reasons."

Soon she will be eligible to apply for German citizenship, but she's reluctant to do that if it would mean having to renounce her British passport. "It's a big thing to give up a passport and I don't want to be forced into that decision," she tells dpa.

Germany allows dual citizenship for members of EU countries. If Britain leaves the bloc, this would be one of the many perks of membership that may have to be renegotiated on bilateral terms.

But EU member states might not be so kind, Rose explains. "If you dump someone, you don't have the right to say: 'Oh yeah, but we'll still share our CD collection.'"

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Keith Anderson turns 65 on the day of the referendum, at which point he will become eligible for his British pension.

But would a Brexit affect his pension? "It's terribly worrying," he tells dpa.

"It's going to be disruptive, and at my age, that is not very good."

The retired Berlin Wall tour guide says he knows "as much about Berlin and its history as I do Bristol and Bath."

He will be voting for things to stay as they are. "I have a long relationship with Germany, and a very, very good one," he says.

Keith has a German friend who lives in London. The two frequently discuss their Brexit concerns over the phone.

"He's got a European Union flatrate phone so he can phone me and natter away for ages," he says, noting that the EU has been working to drastically reduce roaming charges between member states. Whether he will continue to benefit from that drop in costs, he's not sure.

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Mother-of-two Lorna Ather has turned her expertise on expat family life in Germany into a career in Berlin: she is a professional maternity concierge and baby-planner. Many of her clients are English-speaking families who have moved to the city for work reasons.

Lorna is voting to stay, not least because EU membership allows her the privilege of avoiding "mountains of paperwork".

"Germany and the rest of Europe would miss out on talented individuals and the cultural enrichment that (British) foreigners could bring to a country," she writes in an email.

Freshly relocated families may also have to wait a while before they can claim parental benefits, "since income from outside of the EU is not considered for the calculation of the amount a parent receives."

She has considered marrying her German boyfriend, the father of her children, in the event of a Brexit.

"The kids would need British passports as well," Lorna tells dpa, adding that "hassle and the expense" had put her off applying for the documents previously.

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Belfast-born Gerry Mohan has lived in Berlin longer than he's lived anywhere else.

EU citizenship makes life "hassle free" for Gerry, who owns a mid-century furniture shop in the German capital.

A Chilean friend and neighbour, he says, "has to regularly re-apply for permission to stay, even though he has three children who were born in Germany."

Nonetheless, Gerry does not plan on voting on June 23.

"[W]hat I'd like to see is Britain leaving the EU and Scotland leaving the [United Kingdom]," he writes in an email to dpa, adding that this scenario would leave Britain "internationally weakened."

"For me that's a good thing because I think the UK's influence on world politics since 1945 has been largely negative," says Gerry, an open critic of Britain's defence and foreign policy.

Gerry also argues that, while studies claim that a Brexit would be damaging to both the EU and British economies, these are generally "from the point of view of the corporate state."

"Poorer people in southern Europe or in the UK would benefit from much less neoliberalism and austerity. A Brexit might make that more likely," he says.

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"It was great leaving university and knowing that I could just come here and set up shop," says Steph, who worked in Berlin as an air stewardess for a major budget airline and later as a customer service agent for a menswear retailer.

She will be voting in her home city of Manchester, shortly after having moved back to England at the end of May after just under two years in the German capital.

The 24-year-old former languages student describes Berlin as the city where she did her growing. It is the first place where she lived alone.

If there had been visa requirements, the move may not have been so easy. "If that was a barrier to other people leaving university it would be such a shame. I feel I would have missed out on so much if I hadn't come here," she says.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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