When the UK completed the final stage of Brexit at the end of 2020, many Brits in Germany were devastated at the loss of their EU rights. But promises made by Germany’s new government to allow dual nationality have given them renewed hope.
When the UK narrowly voted to leave the EU in 2016, many British people living abroad didn’t get a say in the change. The UK’s laws previously put an arbitrary limit on voting rights for citizens abroad, meaning anyone who had spent more than 15 years in a foreign country was no longer able to vote in elections back home.
For others who did have a voice, the result of the referendum was equally devastating: many were fearful about their future residence rights in the EU and the ability to continue living the lives they had built. Though the negotiations ended up dragging on, when Brexit finally arrived, the sense of loss was palpable.
In March 2020, when the first part of the exit from the EU was completed, British nationals were stripped of the right to vote in EU and local elections. They were no longer able to apply for EU-only jobs. Then, the final exit from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Customs Union on January 1st, 2021 brought with it the end of their freedom of movement within the EU.
But the German government’s pledge to overhaul nationality laws, including dual citizenship, gives hope to Brits.
In a survey by The Local on the plans earlier this year, several Brits told us they were thrilled to hear of the rule changes and would “definitely” apply for citizenship in the future. The traffic-light coalitions’ plans to ditch an age-old ban on the holding of multiple nationalities has given Brits hope that they can someday regain these rights by applying to become German, while not relinquishing their British passport or identity.
While UK citizens who had lived in Germany before Brexit had their right of residence in the country assured by the Withdrawal Agreement, those without German citizenship are essentially “landlocked”, meaning they no longer have automatic residency rights in any other EU country.
According to British in Germany, the appetite for becoming German is huge among many of the Brits who didn’t make the original cut-off at the end of 2020.
When the new law permitting multiple nationalities comes into force – which could be as early as this year – thousands of Brits will be clamoring to become a citizen of the EU once again.
“We know that many more UK citizens who have residency rights under the Withdrawal Agreement provisions would like to take dual nationality once the laws change,” said Golding.
“Like other third country nationals who have been in Germany for a long time, most feel very integrated, and committed to Germany, and becoming German would allow them to participate even more fully in German society, including voting and standing for election.
“At the same time, keeping their original citizenship is an insurance policy in case, for example, they have to go back to their country of origin to look after elderly relatives in the future.”