After the Brexit More and more Britons seek German citizenship

Berlin · More and more Britons are seeking citizenship in Germany and other European countries following the Brexit. Here’s why German citizenship is particularly popular.

 Not all Britons celebrated the Brexit.  Some decided to take on citizenship in a country belonging to the EU.

Not all Britons celebrated the Brexit.  Some decided to take on citizenship in a country belonging to the EU.

Foto: dpa/Hannah Mckay

Before the referendum on the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union, 622 UK citizens sought and were granted German citizenship. The year after, there were 7,493 UK citizens who received German citizenship, and two years later it was 14,600. When the latest figures become available in May, statisticians expect another steep rise. "I now don't have a single Briton in my circle of acquaintances who hasn't taken German citizenship," reports Christel Jenkner, managing director of the German-British Society in Düsseldorf.

The former English teacher knows many British people in Germany. Her club has 150 members and more than 250 permanent guests. It offers Anglophiles in the Lower Rhine region and British residents a chance to learn what’s happening back in the UK and in Germany, and gives them a chance to do some German-British socializing in the Düsseldorf area. Jenkner remembers before the referendum, when no one believed that the "Leave" supporters would prevail. And of the horror and the first reactions that came afterwards: "It started right away that people wanted German citizenship just to be on the safe side," Jenkner reports. The statisticians at the NRW IT Authority confirm that from from 2018 to 2019, the number of UK citizens granted German citizenship almost tripled - from 1,379 to 3,850 in North Rhine Westphalia alone.

Many Britons are already part of German society

The British may be out of the EU, but in Germany, their two passports represent a lasting bond. "British nationals in Germany play an important role in the close relations between our two countries," says the new UK ambassador in Berlin, Jill Galard. Many British citizens have been living and working in Germany for many years, she said. "And the fact that those who have applied for and received German citizenship have been in Germany for an average of 27 years speaks to the fact that they have become a part of society in the German cities and towns where they live," is Galard's assessment. Her team in the Berlin embassy and in the two consulates in Düsseldorf and Munich provide consular support to all British nationals in Germany if they need help, the ambassador emphasizes. This is true regardless of whether they are visitors, live permanently in Germany or have both British and German citizenship. 34,618 British women and 58,750 British men were registered in Germany at the turn of 2019/2020, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

Especially in the former British occupation zone in northern Germany and in NRW, they have built up contacts over the decades. The former Commander-in-Chief Bernard Montgomery was based in Bad Oeynhausen until the end of the 1950s, and for decades the British headquarters was in Rheindahlen (Mönchengladbach). At least 10,000 British soldiers were stationed in the Rhine Army - they and their families became part of German society. Last year, the British troop presence shrank to a few hundred remaining soldiers. The German-British Society remained - with locations in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Bonn and Frankfurt, among others.

This may explain why, after the UK left the EU, German citizenship is the most popular among Britons. After the Brexit referendum, there were steep increases in the number of British nationals taking on citizenship in many of the other 27 EU states.

According to the European Statistics Authority, for example, the number of UK nationals taking citizenship in Belgium jumped from 127 to 1,381, in France from 374 to 1,733, in the Netherlands from 163 to 1,248, and in Sweden from 453 to 1,228 (comparing 2015 and 2017 in each case). But Germany is far ahead. Even Spain, whose south coast is enormously popular with British retirees, saw only an increase from 28 to 54. That also has to do in part with different conditions and requirements.

Orig. text: Gregor Manytz, Translation: ck

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