Berlin assures Britons ahead of Brexit

Berlin has offered some assurance to British nationals living in the German capital. In the event of a "no deal" Brexit, Britons will be allowed to continue residing in the German city-state.

In an attempt to provide order and reassurance ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit scenario, Berlin city officials opened a registration form Thursday that British citizens living in the city can use to apply for a residency title.

The form description provided by Berlin's State Agency for Citizen and Regulatory Affairs said that proof of residency in Berlin would be necessary for British residents if the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29 without a withdrawal deal, as well as if a deal is reached.


Surprising resilience against the odds

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her country's decision to leave the European Union have become the butt of satirical humor even in Germany, as can be seen here by a float that featured in a Carnival procession in the western city of Mainz. But so far, she has stayed in power despite seemingly overwhelming odds.


Taking the reins amidst Brexit turmoil

Theresa May won the leadership struggle to become prime minister in July 2016, after David Cameron resigned over the Brexit vote. Outside 10 Downing Street, May pledged to fight against the "burning injustice" inflicted on the poor and discriminated minorities.


Tories close ranks behind May

By the time of the Tory party conference in October 2016, May appeared to be firmly in control. She claimed her government had a "plan" for Brexit. She still commanded the absolute majority in the UK parliament inherited from David Cameron. May repeatedly ruled out another election.


Strong and stable

In April 2017, however, May pulled a U-turn and demanded a snap vote to supply her with a clear Brexit mandate. The campaign relied heavily on Theresa May's perceived popularity and the "strong and stable" slogan in the contest against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.


Coming up short

The June vote showed that May and her team had severely miscalculated: The Tories lost their absolute majority and were forced to make a deal with the far-right Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to stay in power.


Running out of friends

Following the election, senior Tory members reportedly pressured May to fire two of her closest aides, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, or face a leadership challenge. The two allegedly mismanaged the campaign and threated Cabinet members in a "rude, abusive" way, according to some officials. May complied and cut ties with the pair.


Deadly Grenfell Tower fire

Less than a week after the election, Prime Minister May faced a deadly catastrophe in London: A fire in the Grenfell Tower apartment block claimed 71 lives, with many alleging that the blaze showed the Tories' disregard for the living conditions of the poor. May was booed by protesters while visiting the scene.


Choking on the British Dream

May envisioned her party conference speech in October 2017 as a rallying cry to unite the country and reassert her leadership. But the event did not go according to plan. While giving her speech, May's voice repeatedly cracked and she suffered multiple coughing fits.


Patel goes, Rudd goes, Fallon goes

May also had to deal scandals involving several senior Cabinet members. In November 2017, Development Secretary Priti Patel was forced to leave after secretly talking with Israeli representatives about military aid. Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon stepped down days earlier over misconduct allegations. And Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned in April 2018 amid outrage over the Windrush affair.


Boris Johnson and David Davis go into open rebellion

All previous Cabinet troubles paled in comparison to the departures of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis in July 2018. The two rebelled against May's Brexit plan, claiming she was kowtowing to the EU.


Donald Trump: May 'didn't listen to me'

A visit from US President Donald Trump seemed to further undermine the British prime minister. Trump told British media that May's Brexit plans were not "what the people voted on." Trump added that "I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn't agree, she didn't listen to me."


May stays in the saddle, somehow

For many months, global media outlets (including DW) have speculated about May losing power. So far, however, she has managed to prove her doomsayers wrong. Still, polls in July 2018 showed her approval ratings at a record low: Only 30 percent approve of her as prime minister and only 22 percent are happy with the government.


Surviving the vote of confidence

Following long and difficult talks with the EU, Theresa May endorsed a controversial Brexit deal and presented it to the UK public in November 2018. Hardliners in May's own Tory party rebelled and launched a challenge for party leadership. In the end, May survived with 200 Tory lawmakers confirming their support and 117 voting against her.

Three-month grace period

According to the form website, from March 30, "British citizens in Germany will, for an initial period of three months until 30.06.2019, be exempted from the requirement to possess a German residency title."

At this time, "all British citizens should apply for a residency title at their local Foreigners Registration Office," the form site read.

"Until a decision has been taken on the application, the applicant will be allowed to continue to reside in Germany and to engage in economic activity of any kind," it continued.

It was a significant move by Berlin — which has the most British nationals of any German federal state — to provide extra security to UK nationals who fear losing their legal status in a no-deal scenario. However, much remained unclear as no legal agreement yet exists at the national level between Germany and the UK that would enable British citizens to remain legally in the country, even should their application for a residency title by the city of Berlin be approved.

It was not immediately clear what options were available to Britons living elsewhere in Germany, however Angela Merkel said in October that Germany was making contingency plans on a national level for a no-deal Brexit. 

Around 100,000 British citizens live in Germany.

Read more: Brexit causes record number of Britons to be granted German citizenship

EU citizens living in Britain

Meanwhile, the British Home Office announced that EU citizens and their families will be required to apply to an EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. The cost of an application has been set at 65 pounds (€72, $82).

Related Subjects

The official British government guidelines state that Irish citizens and people with indefinite leave to enter the UK (ILE), or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) do not need to apply.        

The Home Office has published a paper on citizens' rights in the event Britain leaves with European Union with no deal.

The paper states that, "UK nationals who went to the EU and EU citizens who came to the UK before the UK's exit from the EU did so on the basis that they would be able to settle permanently and build a life here, or in the EU."

"That is why the UK has taken steps to remove any ambiguity and provide complete reassurance for EU citizens in the UK," it continues. "We ask that the EU and Member States do the same for our nationals."

A new British government website will advise on contingency plans people and business can make for a no deal scenario. Billboard advertisements for the website are expected to appear during the coming weeks.


June 2016: 'The will of the British people'

After a shrill referendum campaign, nearly 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU on June 24. Polls had shown a close race before the vote with a slight lead for those favoring remaining in the EU. Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to stay, acknowledged the 'will of the British people' and resigned the following morning.


July 2016: 'Brexit means Brexit'

Former Home Secretary Theresa May replaced David Cameron as prime minister on July 11 and promised the country that "Brexit means Brexit." May had quietly supported the remain campaign before the referendum. She did not initially say when her government would trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty to start the two-year talks leading to Britain's formal exit.


March 2017: 'We already miss you'

May eventually signed a diplomatic letter over six months later on March 29, 2017 to trigger Article 50. Hours later, Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, handed the note to European Council President Donald Tusk. Britain's exit was officially set for March 29, 2019. Tusk ended his brief statement on the decision with: "We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye."


June 2017: And they're off!

British Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, kicked off talks in Brussels on June 19. The first round ended with Britain reluctantly agreeing to follow the EU's timeline for the rest of the negotiations. The timeline split talks into two phases. The first settles the terms of Britain's exit and the second the terms of the EU-UK relationship post-Brexit.


July-October 2017: Money, rights, and Ireland

The second round of talks in mid-July began with an unflattering photo of a seemingly unprepared British team. It and subsequent rounds ended with little progress on three phase one issues: How much Britain still needed to pay into the EU budget after it leaves, the post-Brexit rights of EU and British citizens, and whether Britain could keep an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.


November 2017: May pays out?

Progress appeared to have been made after round six in early November with Britain reportedly agreeing to pay up to £50 billion (€57 billion/$68 billion) for the "divorce bill." May had earlier said she was only willing to pay €20 billion, while the EU had calculated some €60 billion euros. Reports of Britain's concession sparked outrage among pro-Brexit politicians and media outlets.


December 2017: Go-ahead for phase two

Leaders of the remaining 27 EU members formally agreed that "sufficient progress" had been made to move on to phase 2 issues: the post-Brexit transition period and the future UK-EU trading relationship. While May expressed her delight at the decision, European Council President Tusk ominously warned that the second stage of talks would be "dramatically difficult."


July 2018: Boris and David resign

British ministers appeared to back a Brexit plan at May's Chequers residence on July 6. The proposal would have kept Britain in a "combined customs territory" with the EU and signed up to a "common rulebook" on all goods. That went too far for British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary Davis. They resigned a few days later. May replaced them with Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab.


September 2018: No cherries for Britain

The Chequers proposal did not go down well either with EU leaders, who told her at a summit in Salzburg in late September that it was unacceptable. EU Council President Tusk trolled May on Instagram, where he captioned a picture of himself and May looking at cakes with the line: "A piece of cake perhaps? Sorry, no cherries." The gag echoed previous EU accusations of British cherry-picking.


November 2018: Breakthrough in Brussels

EU leaders endorsed a 585-page draft divorce deal and political declaration on post-Brexit ties in late November. The draft was widely condemned by pro- and anti-Brexit lawmakers in the British Parliament only weeks earlier. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned along with several other ministers, and dozens of Conservative Party members tried to trigger a no-confidence vote in May.


December 2018: May survives rebellion

In the face of unrelenting opposition, May postponed a parliamentary vote on the deal on December 10. The next day, she met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek reassurances that would, she hoped, be enough to convince skeptical lawmakers to back the deal. But while she was away, hard-line Conservative lawmakers triggered a no-confidence vote. May won the vote a day later.


January 2019: Agreement voted down

UK parliament 432 to 202 against May's Brexit deal in a parliamentary vote on January 16. In response to the result, European Council President Donald Tusk suggested the only solution was for the UK to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, Britain's Labour Party called for a vote of no confidence in May, her second leadership challenge in as many months.

Withdrawal deal 

The UK and the EU are struggling to sign off on a proposed withdrawal deal that would guarantee the rights of UK citizens living in the EU, as well as vice versa.

Should no deal be agreed upon, the legal status of UK citizens living in EU countries would be thrown into uncertainty, as their legal right to reside in the bloc is currently tied to the UK's being an EU member state.

A vote on a potential Brexit agreement negotiated by British Prime Minister Theresa May will take place during the week of January 14. 

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