Hates England Germany
'You feel rejected': How are Germans in the UK coping with Brexit?
Nicole Janz has lived and worked in Great Britain since 2009. She did her doctorate in Cambridge, married and settled in the university town with her husband and daughter. Since the summer she has been employed as an assistant professor at the renowned University of Nottingham. Janz and her husband are two of over 300,000 Germans living in the UK. Since June 23, they have become more aware of the fact that they are German.
She recently went to a pub with friends, says Janz. She ordered a beer and when the woman behind the counter noticed the German accent, she reprimanded Janz: "We say please and thank you in Great Britain."
"Ok, maybe I wasn't polite enough, but nothing like this has ever happened to me before," she says. "I am now being shown more often that I am a foreigner."
The Germans are among the top 10 largest immigrant groups in Great Britain: they are fewer than the Irish but more numerous than the Americans. Many of those who have lived here for a long time also see the decision in favor of Brexit as a vote against Europeans.
"Many feel personally offended," says Ulrich Storck, who has headed the office of the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert Foundation in London for four years. "These people have tried to get closer to the British for years and now they feel rejected."
Renate Dietrich-Karger agrees. For three decades she has been commuting between Bavaria and Scotland, where she has her second residence and lives six months a year. "It felt to me as if a close relative had died," she says, describing her feelings on the morning after the referendum. “A number of my relatives had fled the Nazis to Great Britain because they were Jews. From 1965 on I was regularly in Great Britain, which for me at the time was the "Land of Hope and Glory". But a lot has changed since then. What worries me more and more is the willingness to 'hate others' and to speak out openly. "
Support for Brexit in the UK varies considerably from region to region. In Scotland, where voters overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, the Scottish National Party is bypassing the UK government and trying to contact EU leaders directly and remind them that they have an ally north of the UK border .
"German tourists are one of the most important groups for the Scottish tourism industry," says Angus Robertson, the SNP parliamentary group leader in the British House of Commons. The MP, whose mother is German, is also a close friend of David McAllister, the former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony and party friend of Angela Merkel.
Labor MP Gisela Stuart is also German, but she was one of those who spearheaded the Brexit campaign, calling for Britain to regain control of immigration, trade, taxation and justice.
Her own status as a European immigrant put her in the spotlight in the run-up to the referendum. An ideal cast to give credibility to the Brexit campaign. However, Stuart also made her prominent position a target.
She has been called a traitor by EU supporters in the UK and abroad, says Stuart. "I was never berated in Great Britain for being German," she says, "but now I receive insults from Germany from people who consider themselves good Europeans."
Meanwhile, neither supporters nor opponents of Brexit can reliably predict what UK-based Europeans can expect and what the consequences of Brexit will be for those arriving after the likely exit year 2019.
Many of the Germans who have come to the UK in the past 20 years are highly trained professionals. Over 5,000 Germans research and teach at British universities, making them the largest group of foreign scientists. In addition, over 3,000 Germans work as doctors and nurses in the state health system.
Oliver Cramer is the assistant medical director of the only hospital on the Isle of Wight. Cramer came to Great Britain in 2003 with his Greek wife, who is also a doctor. The couple who have been working on the island since then never felt like immigrants in all those years - until June.
Almost 70% of voters on the Isle of Wight voted to leave the EU. “We were told not to take this personally. We're useful immigrants, ”says Cramer, pausing. "Useful ... And if we retire here in 20 years, will we no longer be useful?"
Michaela Frye is also useful. The research group leader at the Institute of Genetics at Cambridge University has lived in the UK for 15 years and was dismayed by the outcome of the referendum.
Although almost three quarters of British citizens in Cambridge voted to remain in the EU, Frye has also felt a subliminal xenophobia since then. Her son attends a British private school where many international families enroll their children. Parents had told her that they had been asked by neighbors when they were going home.
But where is home when you've lived in Great Britain for 15 years? “I feel like a European. My work lives from a common Europe. And suddenly it means: Disappear !? ”
She fears that Brexit could have serious consequences for her research. Half of your laboratory is financed from EU funds. If this source dried up, it would have to rely on national research funding, which would have difficulties replacing the EU funds. So Frye looks around for jobs in Germany. She's not the only one.
Janz’s husband was only recently offered a job in Berlin, and the couple have been thinking about returning to Germany ever since. British colleagues fear that Brexit could lead to an exodus of foreign talent that important institutions would find difficult to cope with.
“Brexit didn't make our lives easier,” says Cramer, pointing out that his hospital would also be affected if the Europeans left. “Up to 30% of the medical staff are non-British. 89 nations work here. We have already had layoffs and applicants who have turned down. "
“The main reason is the uncertainty. If you come and move your family here, you don't want to move again after two years. "
Like many other Germans, Cramer applied for a permanent residence certificate immediately after the referendum. As a precaution. Europeans living in the UK do not actually need them, but the number of applications is expected to increase amid uncertainty about the status of EU citizens.
Meanwhile, a growing number of Britons with German roots are applying for a German passport. The German Embassy in London confirms that the number of inquiries has increased significantly since the referendum. This affects, among other things, the areas of passport, nationality law and social security law.
Abraham, a British citizen with a German surname, applied for a German passport a few weeks ago. The doctoral student works in Cyprus, where he grew up. “A German passport allows me to maintain my European identity from a bureaucratic point of view, because I identify with Europe,” he says.
Gisela Stuart is convinced that the British borders will remain porous. “I came here myself 40 years ago, I live in Birmingham, in a city where the children of immigrants live in the second and third generation. You can hardly find a more open country. "
It remains to be seen whether the 300,000 Germans will agree.
Anna Lehmann is an editor in the parliamentary office of the taz.die tageszeitung. She works for a few weeks at the Guardian as part of the George Weidenfeld Scholarship of the International Journalist Exchange Program.
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