As a British Citizen living in Germany, Brexit has raised its ugly, unnecessary head for me in two major ways.
First it was the macro implications. The closing of borders, the racism, the lack of historical awareness shown by the voting constituency, the swathes of misguided fear, the bucket loads of lies and the sad truth that the flaws in democracy show when 34% of a population can make such an incredibly consequential, politically significant decision without having even close to a sound understanding of the choice they were making. Is a choice without the facts a choice at all?
Next came the micro implications, which I formerly referred to as the elephant in the room, or the rain cloud sort of hovering off in the distance, waiting for it’s moment to pour; easy to ignore, not overly concerning but ever-present during the past 18 months.
Up until now, and as it currently stands until March 29, I have been living and working in Germany based upon my status as a European Citizen, afforded to me via my British Passport. As soon as the results of Brexit were announced, all people in my position knew, more or less, that things would ultimately be okay – the Norway/Switzerland justification, the “they aren’t going to split up families and destroy businesses” rationalisation.
The first time the reality of my impending lack-of-right-to-live-in-my-current-home hit me on January 3, when Berlin.de released their instructions regarding the “Departure of the United Kingdom from the EU”. Asking British citizens living in Berlin to fill in a form functioning as a quasi-application for residency certainly might not seem like the biggest deal ever, but its questionable wording and oddly instructive phrasing left somewhat of a depressive aftertaste.
Have you lived in Germany for at least 5 years? No.
Do you have family in Germany? No.
If neither of these things should be taken into account or be relevant following Brexit… why ask them in the first place?
The outcome of this form? In April, at some point, British Citizens will be invited to appointments. What the nature of these appointments is, and what their outcomes could be are not stated. This lack of clarity is the natural result of nobody having a clue how things are going to go once Brexit actually happens – but it’s a reminder that things will actually change. I still find it highly unlikely that European countries will kick economic residents from the UK out, but it’s a peculiar feeling to suddenly be invited to apply to live in a country you previously possessed the right to reside in.
The current vision I have been given for my future in Germany post-Brexit can be summarised by the snippet confirming the completion of my form, where I have apparently made a “provisional application for a residency permit in anticipation of Brexit.” Theoretically this means everything and nothing at the same time, and is highly likely occurring before the fact because of Germany being trigger-happy on a good bit of bureaucracy. But it’s also fair, European countries need to be prepped and ready to take the next steps, whatever happens. At this stage, we all simply want to know that that will be.
Striking an oddly melancholic tone, right at the bottom of the confirmation email I received is a lonely little sentence that made me smile with the hope I’ve tried to quell since learning of my nation’s decision to depart the historically unique and incredibly important union it held such a huge role in founding: “Should the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union be stopped, we will immediately delete all data we have collected.”