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We Asked British Expats in Berlin if They're Worried About the UK Leaving the EU

Unsurprisingly, most of them were against the "Brexit."

All photos by Mirko Lux

The prospect of Brexit looms large over Europe. The polls are getting tighter, and the tension is rising. This fear is felt more acutely in places like Berlin than it is in Bradford. The German capital is home to an estimated 5,600 Brits, most of whom are getting relatively squeaky-bummed about the potentially drastic change in their living and working arrangements.

One man worrying more than most is ex-pat journalist and campaigner Jon Worth. He took it upon himself to organize a meeting on the topic in a central Berlin pub. The idea behind it was simple: "I do not know many British people in Berlin," he told me. "I want to find out what they think. Are they scared? Angry? Ready to campaign? Or are they ready to get German passports if they need them, and do they prefer Berlin over any call back to 'home?'" To that end, more than a hundred people gathered in a pub basement last week to watch a panel discussion and engage in some great British traditions: drinking, worrying, and getting politely angry.


The crowd was pro-EU, as you might imagine from a room of predominantly expats, and in a flash poll at the end, only one vote was cast to leave. Still, the mood of unease was clear, so VICE spoke to a few of Berlin's Brits to ask them about the effect of the Brexit on their relationships with fellow Berliners, their motivations for coming to the meeting, and their messages to the folks back in Blighty.

Helen Turek from Essex

VICE: What do you think would happen to you if there was a Brexit?
I think that's the problem really. I think there's a lot of uncertainty and no one really knows. What could happen is that my rights to work would be taken away, but what I think is going to happen is that there will be lengthy procedures and new agreements. I assume that I'll be allowed to stay, but it's going to make life a lot more difficult.

How do you feel the German government should treat the British government concerning the referendum?
I think every country has a right to renegotiate its position within the EU and its relationship with the Lisbon Treaty. Every country has that right and should be listened to if it has concerns, but for me, the Germans think the British are pestering themselves.

What message would you send to people back home?
I know that the majority of the people who are going to vote to remain will have had the same kind of experience that I have had and many of the people here understand that privilege. I would remind British people of what a privilege it is. I came here for six months, and six years later I'm still here.


Tamarlane from London

What do you think Germans think about Brexit?
I guess I think the problem is that experts on either side of the debate don't know what's going to happen. On the one hand, there is a feeling that Britain leaving would do a lot of damage to the EU. At least in the short term, it would cause people to lose faith in it. But on the other hand, I could see why a lot of Germans would be pissed off at the British for wanting so many special conditions and that many might say that maybe they'd be better off if we did leave, and then every else that is left is more committed to the project.

Will from Cheshire

How do you feel the prospect of a Brexit is affecting your relations with Germans?
From European perspective, the British debate is a non-debate. We're talking all the time about in/out, but we're not actually talking about the important issues in Europe, and that's the main point for me. It's obscuring the debate. It's obscuring what we [Brits] can bring positively to the European Union.

What would happen to you personally if a Brexit happens?
I think there's a lot of uncertainty, and nobody really knows. But I've lived here for five or six years, so I would go for German citizenship to try to avoid the uncertainty of potentially having to get a visa.

How do you feel the Germans should react the British government concerning the referendum?
It's confusing, because Germany has a very different relationship with the EU. It's much more integrated. Germans are very frustrated that Britain wants to leave because it has repercussions on its relationship with the EU, and particularly with regards to EU foreign policy. Britain will still have to negotiate with the EU on many different levels, and if we look at environmental policy and its consumer policies. Britain has been really helped by the European Union in raising standards.


Daniel from Middlesborough

How do you feel the perception of British people within Germany has been changed by this referendum?
Basically every time Brexit is mentioned among Germans, they just laugh.

What message would you send to people back home?
I would make sure that British people realize that the whole immigration thing works both ways. I came to Berlin because I was fed up of the UK mentality. People are only happy when they have something to complain about.

David from Devon

What would happen to you personally if there was a Brexit?
It'd be a lot more difficult to remain here, so the selfish option would be to vote to remain here. Nevertheless, I'm undecided, and that's why I'm here tonight.

What message would you send to people back home?
I would say to the average Briton to really vote in what they think is Britain's best interest. They shouldn't worry about us expats. If we like where we live and we've lived here long enough, we're already happy to take German citizenships. I come from a fishing and farming area, and everyone there has been anti-EU all my life. If it's what makes them happier, that's how they should vote.

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