Brexit: Brits in Germany reflect on the future of travelling to Europe

Queuing up at passport control at Düsseldorf airport, it is not long until the conversation turns to Brexit.

In front of me businessman Bob Ward turns around to jokes to how this is the last time we will be able to enter as European Citizens and maybe we should take a picture. 

The accountant from Gillingham, Kent, is the city for a conference. His tone quickly turns serious when I ask how it feels our departure will impact Brits.

“I bet there is going to be queues and chaos for us,” he says.

“I travel to Europe a lot for work. I wouldn’t blame them if they made us wait longer in our own special queue. It’s our own fault we are in this mess.”

30 minutes later and the Brexit word has popped up again while I’m on the train heading towards Dortmund, Germany’s third-largest city. 

Hearing I’m English, a group of students sitting opposite want to know if I’m sad or happy about the departure. 

Mana Siedlarek, a 20-year-old history student, said in perfect English: “I think it is very upsetting.

“Not just because it will effect my chances of working in London but because what being European means to us all.

“For most Germans being in Europe helps us all to widen our horizons away from our darker history.”

Duesseldorf airport
Duesseldorf airport

She told of a British friend at university who got a letter last week saying she would have to pay international tuition fees from next semester due to Brexit.

“Fortunately they had got it wrong and apologised but I think this case highlights the confusion there is about citizen rights.”

Later that evening at a friendly Italian-run pizzeria, just a stone’s throw away from Borussia Dortmund’s ground, it becomes apparent not everyone is on the same side of the argument. Divisions about our decision to leave the EU after 47 years are as clear here as they are at home.

Sitting on the table next to me, Jan Bienias, 60, eating with his wife Hannah, 51, explains his worries of whether the EU can manage without Britain.

“The loss of the UK’s financial contribution will have a big impact on the EU’s budget,” the former mechanic said. 

“I think your country’s future looks bright. And I’m not so sure about ours.

“Germany’s economy is hovering on the brink of a recession.

“But Britain looks in a good place now to attract foreign investments. 

“I like Boris Johnson. You have a solid-one party majority, not like the fragile European coalitions. 

“He forced through Brexit and I think he will be able to negotiate a trade accord. He won’t be bullied.

“We might not want to admit it but I think you’ll find there are many Germans who are actually a bit jealous of you leaving Europe.

“We are trapped inside bureaucracy and Britain is now free.”

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While her husband went to pay the at the counter, Hannah says her goodbyes and tells me not to worry too much about it.

“It doesn’t matter if your country is in or out, Brits will always be welcome here.”


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