Sara Gordon reports on pro democracy demonstration which took place in Berlin last weekend.
On Saturday representatives from British in Germany joined grassroots organisation Stop the Coup Berlin, also supported by Pulse of Europe, to defend British democracy in the face of the current government’s attempts to push through a no-deal Brexit.
Many Brits living in Germany along with the vast majority of EU citizens living in the UK were not able to vote in the referendum, a decision that will detrimentally affect our lives and futures. The threat of a no-deal Brexit has caused fear, anger and distress, compounded by stressful cliff-edge situations and the threats to democracy in the UK government under Boris Johnson. Many in British in Germany face uncertainty until they are granted some form of residence permit, and many will not be able to apply until Brexit happens. Brits elsewhere in the EU may be even less fortunate. A disorderly Brexit could make them illegal overnight – resulting in traumatic chaos.
Aware of the potential consequences of a disorderly Brexit both here in Germany and back in the UK, Brits and EU citizens banded together to form Stop the Coup Berlin. Following on from smaller protest on 31 August, a core of seven people went to work, lost lots of sleep, and organised a larger demonstration on Pariser Platz directly in front of the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday 7th September.
Speakers included MEP Sergey Lagodlnsky (Bündnis 90/die Grünen), who spoke about the importance of democracy; Berlin-based British political commentator Jon Worth, who shared his analysis of recent events; Daniel Tetlow of British in Germany, who spoke about citizen rights, academic Prof. Dr. Mareike Kleine (LSE / Freie Universität), whospoke about what happens when democracies go bad; newlywed British-born German Rachel Marriott who detailed some of the experiences of Brits living in Germany in the face of Brexit. This was followed by a brief open-mic session, followed by Scottish stand-up comedian Neil Numb who added his lighter-hearted take on all this.
The whole event was accompanied by local musicians Espin and the Noisses, the highlight of which was perhaps the duet set of EU-inspired songs by Noisses’ singer Lucy Stubley and Espin, including “Nothing compares to EU”.
The protest was a resounding success! At peak, we counted 150 attendees and collected over 220 signatures for the letter to Ambassador Sir Sebastian Wood, which was delivered to a representative on the day by coordinator Rose Newell and logistics man Maurice Bennet.
Depending on events over the next few weeks, British in Germany will continue to coordinate with Stop the Coup Berlin and Pulse of Europe on the best way to proceed. It is highly likely that another demonstration will be organised in the near future.
We would like to thank all that attended the demonstration and encourage more to come out next time!
Until then, we encourage you to visit the British in Germany Berlin Stammtisch this Saturday (14th September) at BrewDog Mitte (1 to 5 pm) and keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter and email.
Images (c) Sara Gordon, 2019
The event was cover by several media outlets. Here are a few links to their reporting:
The British Embassy is organising information events in order to ensure that Brits living in Germany are kept in the loop with information regarding the UK’s preparations to leave the EU. These events will be an opportunity for UK nationals to pose questions regarding individual situations and a British in Germany e.V. representative has also been invited to speak at each event.
DATES AND LOCATIONS
Berlin, 30 September
Düsseldorf, 1 October
Frankfurt, 10 October
Hamburg, 15 October
Munich, 24 October
Please bear in mind that interested participants will have to register in advance. Details to follow.
Join British in Germany for a Stammtisch at BrewDog in Mitte on Saturday 14th September to discuss the latest Brexit developments and to get information on how best to protect yourself. Find the Facebook event here.
When? 13:00-17:00, Saturday 14th September
Where? BrewDog Mitte: Ackerstraße 29, 10115 Berlin
British in Hannover have two upcoming events this Friday, 17 May.
Open Evening for UK nationals, 4 pm – 7 pm, NordLB Building (Friedrichswall 10, 30159 Hannover)
In collaboration with the Honorary Consul in Hanover Thomas Bürkle and British in Germany e.V., the British Embassy Berlin will host an Open Evening for UK nationals on Friday 17th May 2019. This will be an opportunity to find out how the UK leaving the EU might affect your rights to live and work in Germany.
More info and registration (required) at the Eventbrite page. Please bring proof of registration and photo ID with you on the night.
Straight afterwards is the British in Hannover Stammtisch, at the Ständige Vertretung (in the same building, Friedrichswall 10, Hannover), from 7 pm until closing time. Come along for a pint and an informal chat! You can check out the Facebook event here.
British in Bremen are meeting at 7:30 pm on Tuesday 28 May, at Loft Bremen, Bahnhofsplatz 5 – 7, 28195 Bremen – join us for a beer and a friendly chat!
Our Stammtisch is a friendly place to meet other fellow Brits living in and around Bremen. Of course with Brexit all up in the air, this topic will probably come up, but it is not the sole purpose of the Stammtisch! Come to catch up and get to know new people.
For the politically minded amongst you, the next Stammtisch will be just in time to discuss the results of the EU elections!
On the 30th of April, the British Embassy in Berlin hosted two info events for British citizens living in Germany. Rachel King from the British Embassy introduced the event and discussed the current situation. She was followed by Herr Engelhard Mazanke, head of the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Registration Office in Berlin, LABO) in Berlin. To round up the speeches, Prisca Merz, the Embassy’s regional policy advisor, spoke about what the Embassy in Berlin is doing to keep UK citizens informed during these febrile uncertain times. The key points of the speeches in the order they were delivered are as follows:
From Rachel King: first, the current Brexit extension is to last until 31st October 2019. If a deal is ratified by both the UK Parliament and the EU before that date, the UK will leave on the first day of the following month. The withdrawal agreement protects the rights of residents in their current country of residence and allows for a transition period until 31.12.2020, this is the preferred course of the EU and the British government. The government of the UK does not accept a no deal scenario. Please see the policy paper on citizens’ rights in a no-deal scenario on the UK government website (www.uk.gov/world/living-in-germany). The policy paper discusses rights to work, study, receive benefits/ services, and pensions in Germany in all scenarios. It also gives dates and guidelines for families who are moving back to the UK, and explains how their family members can join them within the time limit.
The UK has decided to guarantee EU citizens in UK the ability to bring a partner, spouse, or dependent to the UK until 29 March 2022. It is unclear what the requirements would be after this date. In terms of higher education, EU nationals are eligible for home fees for 7 years after exit day if they have started their studies before exit.
If the UK leaves without a deal, UK nationals will not need visas for short stays elsewhere in the EU. You will be able to stay up to 90 days in another EU country, within a 180 day period. The request from the UK government is that the EU countries will respond in kind.
During the event, Germany government officials repeated many times that no UK citizen in Germany will be asked to leave due to Brexit.
The extension also means that UK citizens can take part in the EU elections. They should register before 7 May for UK and before 5 May for Germany.
As a result of the uncertainty surrounding exit day, the German government has passed a law regarding social security contributions. This law also allows for UK citizens to join German health insurance:
Steps recommended to take now:
1. Register with German authorities (Anmeldungsbescheinigung)
2. Contact your local LABO for new documentation–for example, Berlin provides online registration. If you have not already registered, please do so. This is to help ensure you can continue to live and work Germany regardless of the uncertainty of not knowing when exit day will happen.
3. Change your UK driver’s license to a German one. You will be allowed to drive in the UK on a German license, but it is unclear at this time if you will be able to drive in Germany with a UK licence.
4. If you have qualifications that have not yet been recognised in Germany, you should do so now. This is not required for academic qualifications, such as a B.A.
5. Ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6months after 31.10.2019.
Information is constantly updated on the embassy website and you can follow them on social media, sign up for emails, and check the website frequently for updates.
After Ms. King’s speech, Herr Mazanke, Head of the Foreigners Registration Office in Berlin started his speech with apologies. At this time he is unable to give any concrete details about what is in store for Brits in Germany after exit. With the lack of clarity in outcomes, he does not have all the information yet.
The process is still open and ongoing. He stated clearly that his advice is for Berliners only and that he cannot speak for other Bundesländer and is not informed as to how each of them is handling Brexit and the registration process.
He encourages all who are not from Berlin to make themselves known to their individual Ausländerbehörde and follow the instructions given.
What has changed in Berlin since the last information meeting? 10,000 of 18,000 (registered as living in Berlin at the local Rathäuser) Brits in Berlin have signed up with the LABO. 4,000 UK citizens in Berlin have been invited to appointments. Those invited so far have shown a long-term commitment in Germany and have been resident for over 5 years. 400 have already had their appointments and each have received a Niederlassungserlaubnis, a form of permanent residency in Germany.
There have been three main responses from UK citizens in Berlin that Herr Mazanke’s office have received:
1. Why have I been invited? You are all still EU citizens and no one is required to attend these appointments. If you choose not to come, please inform your case worker, so that they can offer the appointment to someone else. For every five people invited, four have shown up.
2. Fear. With responses such as: “my file isn’t complete,” “I do not have a valid passport,” or “will I be deported?,” etc. Herr Mazanke reiterated that no Berliners will be deported. You are here on your right to free movement as an EU citizen. Please come to the appointments.
3. Relief. People have expressed gratitude for the smooth process. Come what may,their residency in Germany is resolved. Please take the appointments seriously. There is no fee for permanent residency. UK families living in Berlin are being invited as a unit. If a person has not lived in Germany for five years they will receive a two year permit. This can be renewed until five years’ residence is reached. This is being done so that families can continue to live and travel together within the Schengen zone.
The current set of appointments given out by LABO has filled up all slots available to Brits until the end of June. All those who have yet to receive an invitation should check back on our website, as there will be a step-by-step process depending on happens in the UK from 1 July, dependent on whether the UK takes part in the EU elections – which is now certain.
The goal of the LABO is that all UK citizens in Berlin are given the chance to go through the registration process and that everyone has a residency title appointment before 31.12.2019. Of course this is dependent on how the Brexit situation develops. Herr Mazanke reiterated: please register online and follow our FAQs on the LABO website. Finally, Herr Mazanke thanked all Brits in Germany for their patience and understanding in this uncertain time.
At the end, Frau Prisca Merz, Regional Consular Policy Advisor at the British Embassy, then introduced the different tables at the information fair. These tables included information about health insurance, pensions, DAAD (education and access to universities), the German Federal Employment Agency, Citizenship and our British in Germany Verein . She concluded by repeating that anyone registered with the Ausländerbehörde and awaiting an appointment can continue to work and live in Berlin until they receive a decision on residency. It was suggested that the final acknowledgement screen is printed out and kept as evidence of having completed the online registration.
At the British in Germany table Jane, Jenny, Rachel and I spoke with many people about their concerns and about what British in Germany as an organisation does. We received many thanks for the hard work being done behind the scenes in Germany, and by our umbrella organisation British in Europe. Most who came to the table signed up for our emails and others offered to volunteer. We look forward to seeing many of those at the next Stammtisch on 11 May.
Sara Gordon BiG Volunteer and Stammtisch leader. ______
NOTE: The next BiG Stammtisch in Berlin will take place on 11 May at BrewDog (Berlin-Mitte) from 1pm-5pm. BrewDog is a British bar with craft beers and cider on draft. This week we will be discussing the current Brexit situation, new information from the Ausländerbehörde Berlin, and your questions. Please note that the Stammtisch will now be monthly, so don’t miss this chance to meet up with other Brits and have a pint. We look forward to seeing you there!
The voter registration deadlines for the European Parliament elections are approaching. We are still EU citizens, so let’s make our votes count! Please check out British in Europe’s Register to Vote site for all the details: where, when, how.
If you’ve been away from the UK for less than 15 years, you can choose to vote in the UK, or in Germany. The UK voter registration deadline is Tuesday 7 May, and UK overseas voters may have to re-register this year – check with the local authority where you last voted; full details on how to vote can be found here.
If you’ve been away for over 15 years, you can only vote in Germany, where the voter registration deadline is Sunday 5 May.
If you are registered here, you should already be on the electoral register. It’s important to check with the Wahlamt (electoral office) at your local municipality (Bezirksamt or Kreisverwaltung) as we’ve had some cases of members appearing to be no longer listed, despite being registered last year.
If you are not on the electoral register, you need to opt in. The forms for this are available from the Federal Returning Officer: these must be signed and returned in person or posted to your local municipality by 5 May.
In a set of two articles the UK Ambassador Sir Sebastian Wood and the head of the German government’s Brexit Task Force Axel Dittmann talk citizens’ rights, travelling after Brexit and no-deal preparations. Jane Golding, BiG and BiE were praised for their work protecting Citizens’ Rights.
Dittmann said: “I absolutely agree with Jane Golding and Maike Bohn, who represent British in Europe and the3Million in regular meetings here in the Foreign Ministry, that citizen’s rights are of the utmost importance. This topic has been and will remain our top priority.”
Sir Sebastian echoed this sentiment.
“Protecting the rights of citizens remains the UK’s top priority,” he said.
(DE + english with german subtitles) Gary Blackburn, a BiG member, was interviewed on the impact of Brexit in the SAT1 evening news for the Rheinland Pfalz/Hessen region. Click on the image below for the video, the report starts at 2:35 mins into the broadcast. 2 February, 2019.
(DE with english subtitles) Attendees to the Hamburg InfoAbend and Stammtisch were interviewed for ARD’s Tagestheme programme, 28th January 2019
(DE) Daniel Tetlow features in an article by Bernadette Mittermeier regarding the concerns of EU and UK nationals in the post-Brexit world “Wir sind alle verunsichert”, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21st January, 2019
(DE) ZDF Ländesspiegel 19th Jan with Jane Golding and Connie Simms, BiG’s 2018/9 Intern:
(DE) Ingrid Taylor was interviewed on the BR about the impact of the failed vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons, ‘Ingrid Taylor, Verein “British in Bavaria“‘, BR-Podcast, 16th January, 2019
Daniel Tetlow was interviewed on the situation for UK Nationals living in another EU Member state on Deutsche Welle, 16th January, 2019
Jane Golding was interviewed on the situation in the UK following Parliament’s rejection of the Withdrawal Bill on Deutsche Welle, 16th January, 2019
Channel 4 News included interviews with Jane Golding and other BiG activists in Berlin. We were asked about the impact on our everyday lives and what a no-deal Brexit means to us. You can watch the interviews featured above by clicking on the image or here, Channel 4 News, 18 December 2018
Jane Golding and other members of British in Germany, British in Europe as well as the 3 Million, took part in “The Last Mile” event in London. While there was little coverage in the UK, there was significant coverage in the German Language press, 6 November 2018
(DE) Daniel Tetlow (co-founder of British in Germany), ‘Was es heißt, ein Eu-Bürger zu sein,’ Internationale Politik, May-June 2018. IP has kindly allowed us to provide you access. Please click on the image below to download the PDF (in German). Copyright Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.
(DE) Anika Stiller, Run auf den Doppelpass, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 23 February 2018. Article in German about the tireless work of the British in Germany group in Bavaria, and issues around securing dual nationality.
With the UK’s withdrawal from the EU now postponed until 31 October at the latest, the chances that the UK will take place in the elections for the European Parliament on Thursday 23 May in the UK and Sunday 26 May in Germany has increased.
As we will continue to be EU Citizens at this point we will continue to have the right to take part in these elections.
The deadline to register in the UK is 7th May, and in Germany 5th May, so you will need to move fast!
Together with British in Europe we have re-opened the voter website last used for the 2017 General Election. CLICK HERE, to see British in Europe’s all you need to know Voter Registration Info site.
You will have two choices:
If you have been absent from the UK for less than 15 years you can still vote in the EU elections in the UK at your last registered address.
If you have been absent for more than 15 years or if you prefer to vote in Germany you can register to vote there instead.
If you have not already registered to vote, scroll to the end of the page and find the link to register to vote either online for England, Scotland and Wales, or by post in Northern Ireland. Latest inquires from our members suggest 7th May is the deadline to register for the EU Elections.
Even if you think you are registered it would be worth checking by contacting the Electoral Registration Officer where you think you are registered. Registrations are confirmed each year by post and you may have become deregistered if you have moved addresses and not informed them.
Once registered you should consider how you wish to vote, either by post or by proxy.
If you choose a postal vote then your voting papers will be posted out to you in Germany where you can complete them before returning them. Be aware that the time available to do this limited as the voting papers can take several days to arrive and must be return promptly to be counted.
The most assured way to vote is via a proxy. This could be a friend or neighbour you are happy will vote as you direct them to, or an alternative is to contact your party of choice locally (most have websites to allow you to find a contact name) and they can be authorised to vote on your behalf. In both cases a form needs to be completed and returned to the Returning Officer so start making preparations now.
In the UK the election in on a regional list system and you will have one vote for the list of your choice.
If you are a German citizen, you should be on the electoral register here automatically.
If you are a UK / other EU citizen and not also German, you aren’t included automatically on the register for the European Parliament, you need to opt-in.
If you have opted in for a previous European Parliament election in Germany since 1999 you should still be on the register, even if you have moved home within Germany. But you might want to double check this with your local Wahlamt to confirm you are on the list (particularly given all the recent uncertainty re Brexit)
If you used to live in Germany but then moved away before moving back again, you will need to opt back in again to the European Parliament electoral register. This can be done up to 21 days before the vote, i.e, 5 May. The necessary form can be found on the website but must be handed in personally or by post to the Wahlamt – electoral office – in your local authority area (e.g. Bezirksamt or Kreisverwaltung).
It is possible to set up a postal vote, otherwise you would attend the polling station indicated on your voting card and on presenting your passport will be given a voting paper.
In Germany the election is on a nation wide list system and you will have one vote for the list of your choice.