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Latest on UK in Germany Post-Transition Status

Update on British in Germany’s behind the scenes work regarding the future status of UK citizens in Germany

 

 Despite both the impact of Covid-19 and the lack of progress on a future trade deal between the EU and the UK, the British in Germany e.V. advocacy team has continued high level discussions and negotiations with German authorities at both national and regional levels about the future status of UK citizens in Germany. This has included face-to-face meetings with representatives of Berlin, NRW and Bavaria.  For the the last three years we have continued to push hard for a declaratory or registration system rather than a constitutive or application system, and had intensified our lobbying on this once it was clear that the UK would leave the EU with a Withdrawal Agreement.

 On 24th March 2020, the Bundesministerium des Inneren (BMI – equivalent of the UK Home office) published a Gesetzentwurf (draft law) describing how Germany proposes to enact the Withdrawal Agreement rights of UK citizens after the end of the Transition period.

British in Germany e.V. were invited to give formal input on the initial draft. Our “Stellungnahme” (position paper) was prepared by the legal professionals in our Verein and submitted to the BMI. It is now published here along with a revised draft (Kabinettfassung). Although this is not a final version of the law and may be further modified during the review stages, we want to give you some insight into the current thinking of the German government and our view of the present position.

 The Gesetzentwurf is basically about providing relevant documentation to confirm our rights to remain in Germany and to continue living here – as we have done up till now.  The Gesetzentwurf uses the term “Alt-Briten” to describe us, as opposed to “Neu-Briten” which refers to UK citizens who arrive in Germany after the end of the Transition period.  Some form of document will be needed to show that we are “Alt-Briten” with rights covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. 

 The proposed law suggests that Germany should adopt, as standard, an approach known as “declaratory”. If passed into law, this would mean that the rights of all those registered and living in Germany at the end of the Transition period would be considered confirmed. The process would then require visiting the local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) to register and be issued with an individual document (Aufenthaltsdokument) to confirm these rights. Those who already have a Daueraufenthaltsbescheinigung-EU (Certificate of the right of permanent residence for EU citizens) would be able to swap this for the new document.

This appears to be very good news and is something that British in Germany e.V. has worked tirelessly to advocate – to have a declaratory or registration system and not a constitutive or application system which would require some form of application to secure our individual rights.  It is especially good news because the UK and a number of other EU countries have opted for a constitutive or application system, requiring citizens to apply for their status under the Withdrawal Agreement before the authorities will grant their individual rights.

This is particularly positive since indications were that Germany intended to take that more complicated ‘constitutive’ option, which would require a lot more bureaucratic work and risk some “Alt-Briten” falling through the cracks. We firmly believe that from the perspective of UK citizens in Germany, the declaratory or registration approach is by far the best option. Thanks to input from our members, we’ve had lots of case studies to back up our points in face-to-face discussions with the German authorities and as a basis for extensive written input. We have also been able to argue, with strong evidence, that this approach is the best option for the German authorities. It has been clear that our inputs and views were valued and taken seriously. Based on the meetings we’ve had with several of the Länder where large numbers of British citizens live, and exchanges with contacts in the Bundestag, we believe that our analysis and input really did make a difference.

 Who is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement?

If you are a UK citizen and resident in Germany on the final date of the Transition period (currently 31st December 2020), the Withdrawal Agreement accords you rights. Your partner and dependents may also be accorded rights as a result of yours. For more information on the Withdrawal Agreement and what rights it covers (https://britishineurope.org/)

 More information on Germany’s Gesetzentwurf

If you are interested to look at the actual text of the Gesetzentwurf, you can find it here. Health warning: it is written in quite ‘technical’ German legal form and covers not only the position of UK citizens but also some other changes which Germany wishes to include in its law on EU citizens’ rights.

British in Germany e.V. 

April 2020  (updated June 2020)

 

DBG invite to ‘Future of Island of Ireland’ online discussion

29th June 2020 18.00 Online

The Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft was founded in 1949 to foster friendship between Germany and the UK.  The usual physical meetings are not possible at the moment, so the organisation is testing the online waters with an event on 29th June at 18:00 on ‘The Future of the Island of Ireland’.

“The “backstop”, probably the most contested issue in the first chapter of the Brexit negotiations between the UK government and the European Union, has been replaced with an alternative trading scheme, allowing the Irish Border to be kept open.”

Lisa Claire Whitten, Queen’s University Belfast and Mary C. Murphy, University of Cork  will talk about what’s next for Northern Ireland, how the outcome of Ireland’s General Election can be explained and what this means for the UK and the EU.

The event has  already generated a lot of interest, but the DBG has been able to extend capacity. So if you would like to attend, register as soon as possible via the link below.

https://www.debrige.de/en/termine/the-future-of-the-island-of-ireland/

2019 UK in DE naturalisation numbers released

The German Statistics Authority (Statistisches Bundesamt) released the 2019 citizenship figures on 3rd June 2019.   

You can read the press release below in German and English.   The headline figures are that the largest number of British citizens were naturalised in 2019 (14600), which was more than double that of 2018 (6600).   Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, 31600 British nationals have been granted German citizenship.  

Press Release in German

Press Release in English:  (shortened version)

These numbers are unprecedented in British German history.  They present a large shift in social and citizen identity for around a third of British citizens living in Germany, the large majority of whom will have chosen to keep their British citizenship.  At present application for dual citizenship is possible until December 31 2020 after which you may be asked to give up your British non-EU citizenship in order to be granted German citizenship.   **Note, application and not decision on application.

Prior to the Brexit referendum, the annual naturalisation numbers were a few hundred each year:  2015 –  600, 2014 – 500, 2013 – 500,  2012 – 300, 2011 – 300

Below some British media reports on the numbers:

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jun/03/britons-applying-for-german-citizenship-up-2300-last-year

The Times: (firewalled)

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/auf-wiedersehn-brexit-surge-in-britons-moving-to-germany-55jxt2kzs

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thousands-settle-brexit-doubts-by-becoming-german-swkxlb5f7

Covid 19 Virus update

The British in Germany e.V. National Steering Committee have consulted on Friday 13th March on the implications of the Covid 19 virus spread in Germany.  They agreed to put out the following statement.   Any questions or queries from members –  don’t hesitate to contact info(at)britishingermany.org

“In line with the recommendations being made by experts, the German Minister for Health and the Chancellor, British in Germany  e.V. is suspending all physical meetings including Stammtische and is asking its members not to participate in any further face to face BiG events until further notice.”

Withdrawal Agreement and Transition for UK citizens in Germany

The transition timetable

With a large Tory majority, the UK Parliament passed the October 2019 version of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) in January 2020 and it was also ratified by the European Parliament. The UK then formally left the EU on 31st January 2020. From 1st February 2020, the WA came into force. The Agreement provides for a transition period to run from 1st February 2020 until 31st December 2020. It also contains an article (Article 132) which would allow an extension of 1 or 2 years – provided that a request were made by end of June 2020.

Citizens’ rights and the WA

The citizens’ rights section of the WA remained almost entirely unchanged from the earlier version negotiated by Theresa May, and it is this part of the Agreement that covers the future legal rights of British people who are legally resident in an EU27 country on the last day of the transition period (however long that turns out to be). The Agreement is EU wide and, although each EU27 country will institute its own procedures for things like residence cards etc, each individual EU country must respect the WA’s set out provisions.

Under the WA, most of our rights remain wholly unchanged until the end of the transition period, so at least until 31st December, 2020. This includes freedom of movement meaning it is still possible for people to move freely from the UK to the EU, or within the EU during that period. We did however lose the right to stand and vote in local and European elections from Brexit day, i.e. as of 1st February 2020.

**What’s important to note is that now that the Withdrawal Agreement is in force, we will be covered by it for our lifetimes whatever happens with future negotiations.  So please don’t think that the rights the WA provides for us are temporary – they are not; if you are legally resident in an EU country at the end of the transition period these rights will cover you for your lifetime.

Citizens’ rights in the WA

Crucially, the WA ensures not only the right to live and work in the country of residence at the end of the transition period, but also covers areas such as S1 healthcare rights, together with aggregation and uprating of pensions.   The WA agreement also says we will be able to leave our host country for up to 5 years without losing our right to return.

The WA does not cover everything, however.

For excellent readable summaries of what is and is not included in the WA, please look at the guides produced by British in Europe  https://britishineurope.org/

Dual citizenship in Germany

For those of us in Germany who meet the conditions to apply for German citizenship during the transition period i.e. up to 31st December 2020, there is an additional benefit. The German government passed a law which entitles us, if we meet the conditions and apply for German citizenship during that time, to keep our UK citizenship as well.  This is normally only an option for EU citizens. For more information: Applying for German citizenship

And finally, for the avoidance of any doubt or confusion here are 3 important points:

  1. The media doesn’t always help by using interchangeable terms for things that are quite separate. For example, reference is often made to a ‘deal’ to refer to the trade deal that still has to be struck during the transition period, and the terms ‘no deal’ and ‘crashing out’ to a situation where no trade deal can be agreed. Confusingly, these are the very same terms that the media previously used to denote the UK leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement, but the meaning is very different. Now that the Withdrawal Agreement has become law our future rights contained within it are guaranteed whatever happens with the future trade deal. So a failure to conclude a trade deal might be a ‘no deal’ situation for the UK, but not for British citizens living in the EU. This is important to be clear about and is still sometimes the subject of much confusion and concern.
  2. In the Bill that the UK Parliament passed in January 2020, the Conservative government inserted a clause barring any extension to the Withdrawal Agreement’s transition period beyond 31st December 2020. The WA contains an article (Article 132) allowing an extension of 1 or 2 years to the transition period if it’s requested by July 2020. Clause 132 remains in the WA even though Johnson’s Bill passed with the proposed amendment barring an extension, which means that the UK government could have asked to extend the transition period at any point up to 30th June 2020 by passing a new bit of legislation. However, the British government did not do that and did not request an  extension so as things currently stand, transition will end on 31st DEcember, 2020.
  3. Since the WA is now law, the ‘no deal’ legislation already passed in each of the EU27 countries is now defunct, and we are now waiting for each country to publish details of how it intends to implement the WA for its British residents. For the latest status in Germany, please see here: Latest on UK in Germany Post-Transition Status

Further information sources:

Become a member of British in Germany e.V. here for only 15 Euros a year to support BiG’s advocacy and campaigning work and  to get the latest up to date information on how Brexit will impact the lives of UK citizens living in Germany.

BiG Braunschweig group – meets for first time Thursday 20th

British in Braunschweig group meets for the first time on Thursday 20th February 

By Wendy Anne Kopisch (Organiser)  ** NOTE CHANGE OF DAY – 1 week later, same place, same time. 

What will we be talking about on Thursday 20th ?

That Brexit will probably not solve but rather exacerbate the very injustices it was supposed to solve?

That all the things for which Britain was respected the world over – not so much its former colonialism but rather its enduring politeness, grace in the event of setbacks, and diplomatic dexterity – have become hard to detect under the tirade of abuse from Farage & co?

That we made life decisions based on the assumption that the rights we had at birth would not suddenly be taken away from us by a vote in which many of us were not allowed to participate?

While all these thoughts have been with us a great deal over the past few weeks, months and years, and they are just as justified now as they were on that morning three and a half years ago, the focus on Thursday evening will be on looking as positively as possible to the immediate future.

Now that Brexit has happened, what next for Brits in Germany? What are the most important steps to take now? What do the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, currently in force until the end of the year, mean for us, and what happens after the end of 2020? We are fortunate and grateful that the German government has agreed generous and flexible conditions for Brits living here, and this will be the main topic on Thursday. Come and join us!

7 pm in the Rheinische Republik.

Looking forward to seeing you there!  Sign up here

BiG meets Brexpats Hear Our Voice in Rotterdam

Report by Ellie Sellwood (British in Germany Hamburg)

On Saturday 14th September, I travelled to Rotterdam to take part in a meet-up organised by fellow citizens’ rights campaign group – Brexpats Hear Our Voice (BHOV). The event was held at the Het Niewe Instituut in central Rotterdam and along with members of BHOV, there were also present members from British in the Netherlands, Brexit and the Belgium Brits, Young European Voices, British in Romania and British in Italy.

The theme of the event was “together we are stronger” and the aim was to introduce our groups and share our insights from our respective countries with each other.

Debbie Williams opened the meeting. Debbie is the founder of BHOV, and a member of the British in Europe steering committee. Debbie welcomed everyone and talked about the importance of working together especially in the coming months with Brexit scheduled for the end of October.

Debbie then gave the floor to the visiting groups. First to speak was Molly Williams – Debbie’s daughter, and myself as founding member of the campaign group – Young European Voices. Young European Voices was set up to advocate for the rights of young Brits and Europeans with regards to Brexit and so Molly and I talked about the specific problems facing young people i.e. that young people haven’t been in home countries throughout the EU long enough to apply for citizenship and young parents may lose access to child benefits.

Then I spoke as the representative from British in Germany. I introduced the group and talked about our work both on the federal and local levels. I also talked about our close relationship with the British Embassy and our events and elaborated on our recent successes and challenges – with regards to contradictory advice and differential treatment being offered to Brits by local German federal authorities.

Sara Parkes introduced the British in the Netherlands group, which has had some notable success with the Dutch parliament in the past few months. Louise Ham Sheppard then introduced Brexit and the Belgian Brits (BaBBs) and touched on her group having similar challenges to BiG in Belgium with the country having a federal system and advice being contradictory depending on the local authorities. Neal Whatson then introduced British in Romania and Clarissa Killwick introduced British in Italy.

For the remainder of the day we discussed how to attract the attention of local and British media, the In Limbo books – 2 books full of testimonials from Europeans living in the UK and Brits living in the EU, which BHOV created with Elena Remigi. We discussed how to use these to draw more attention to our situation in Europe. If BiG members are interested then they can ask for some copies from Debbie.

Then there was a role-play and discussion about Brexit and mental health from Valerie – a mental health professional. And, finally the meeting rounded off with a discussion about where we all go from here. Given the different Brexit outcomes, no-deal, extension and, perhaps more hopefully, Article 50 being revoked, it’s important for us all to work out how best to support the members in our groups and where to focus our efforts with regards to campaigning.

All in all it was a very uplifting event that went a long way to show how much stronger we can be together. Thanks very much to the Brexpats Hear Our Voice team for their kind invitation!

British Embassy hold their first Facebook Live Event

Report by Elise Shepley (BIG Intern)

The British Embassy in Berlin led an hour-long Facebook live Q&A on August 6th 2019, in an attempt to directly address the questions and concerns of British citizens living in Germany in the run up to Brexit.

Over 200 questions were answered, and the Embassy has subsequently produced a summary of the event, which documents all of the questions and answers posed during the Q&A session. All questions posed within the hour-long time frame received a response from the Embassy over the following 24 hours.

The Embassy’s document has been organised into eight categories determined by the questions posed:

  • Residency (103 questions)
  • Work, qualifications, pensions, and benefits (36 questions)
  • Travel (15 questions)
  • Healthcare (24 questions)
  • Passport and nationality (18 questions)
  • Miscellaneous (16 questions)
  • Returning to the UK (5 questions)
  • Education (1 question)

Residency was therefore by far the most recurrent theme, with particular concerns about registration for residency permits being raised. The Embassy reiterates that anyone previously exercising free movement rights in Germany may be granted a residency permit, with permanent permits only being granted automatically to those who have been in Germany five years or longer.  The Embassy also confirms that the residency permit is not tied to any German language requirements, nor to employment status.

Other recurring themes included questions about the future status of health insurance policies for UK citizens in Germany (S1), queries about dual citizenship and the position of family members of different nationalities, and about potential issues in travelling into Germany and returning to the UK.

The FB live event created on the whole very positive feedback from BiG members and the Embassy committed a significant amount of manpower and resources to the event.    We hope this will set the precedent for further FB live events in Germany and across Europe as British citizens living in the EU face increasing uncertainty and anxiety about their lives and livelihoods living in Europe.

You can also access the full Embassy document with all of the questions and responses.