Brexit Q&A – Your questions answered
I hold a German passport, so can I still visit the UK without a visa after Brexit?
The European Commission has proposed granting British citizens visa-free travel to the EU for short stays (of up to 90 days in any 180-day period), that is on the condition that the UK grants visa-free travel for all EU citizens.
I'm a British citizen living in Germany – what now for me?
If the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented, a 21-month transitional period will begin once the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019. The transitional period will end on 31 December 2020. During this transitional period the UK will in principle be treated like a member state of the European Union. EU rules on freedom of movement will continue to apply during this period.
What happens if Britain leaves without a deal?
In the event of Britian leaving the EU without a deal no British citizen will be required to immediately leave Germany. The Federal Government is planning to implement a three-month transitional period, which may be extended. During this period all British citizens who are entitled to freedom of movement within the EU and their family members will be able to continue to live and work in Germany as before without a residence permit.
However, in order to be able to stay in the long term, all British citizens will be required, before the end of the transitional period, to apply to the competent foreigners' authority for a residence permit and, if they have not already done so, to register with the registration authority at their place of residence. They have permission to stay in Germany while their application is being processed. Some foreigners' authorities are already planning to introduce a voluntary registration/application process before 29 March 2019.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior provides wide-ranging information on its website which deals with various different scenarios. The British Embassy also regularly updates information for British citizens available on its website.
Please note that a disorderly Brexit may also have consequences for your social security cover (in particular pension and health insurance), especially if you are insured in the UK but living in Germany. Please contact your social security provider in good time to find out more.
I have German and British citizenship. Do I have to give one of them up now?
No. As a German citizen you are naturally permitted to reside in Germany without a residence permit. Even if you are a citizen of another EU member state you are still entitled to freedom of movement. And that does not mean that you have to give up your British citizenship.
Will I still be able to do an Erasmus semester in the UK after Brexit?
At this point in time it is still impossible to say whether the UK will stay in the Erasmus+ Programme and what the UK’s future status will be in the Erasmus+ Programme. That will all depend on the outcome of the withdrawal negotiations between the EU and the UK.
I'd like to study in the UK. What rules will apply to me?
The UK Council for International Student Affairs' website (Information and Advice – Fees and Money – Government Student Support – Brexit: Impact on student finance) has information supplied by Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland about the possible consequences which the UK leaving the EU will have as regards tuition fees and student finance for students from EU member states wishing to study in the UK. The Federal Government has no further information beyond that.
Will there still be school exchanges and class trips after Brexit?
To facilitate class trips and school exchanges, pupils who are legally resident in one of the member states of the European Union but are not a national of one of its member states will be able to travel to another member state if they are on a list of pupils. This list can serve as a common visa and, possibly, also as a passport replacement permitting entry to a country.
What requirements the UK will in future make of such class trips will depend on what the UK’s future relationship will be with the EU. It may in future be necessary for pupils going on a class trip or school exchange to take out private health insurance before travelling.
What's the difference between an orderly and a disorderly Brexit? What does the Federal Government want to happen?
On 29 March 2017 the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, notified the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the European Union. This launched the official process of the UK's exit from the EU, including negotiations on a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.
The Federal Government has repeatedly expressed its regret that the United Kingdom intends to leave the EU. At the same time, though, it has always been clear about the fact that it respects the will of the British people as expressed in the outcome of the referendum in 2016.
Since the Brexit negotiations began the Federal Government has been committed to ensuring an orderly Brexit. However, it is also making preparations in case no withdrawal deal can be agreed. There are thus two very different possible scenarios:
If a withdrawal agreement is ratified, then a transitional period will enter into force, ending on 31 December 2020. The negotiating parties have already agreed on this deadline so as to be able to mitigate the impact of Brexit for citizens and businesses in particular. During this transitional period, the UK would then continue to comply with EU rules and pay its financial contributions to Brussels. However, the UK would no longer be represented in any of the EU’s bodies. After the end of the transitional period, new rules would govern the UK’s relationship with the EU.
On 15 January 2019 the British Government failed to win a vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship which had been negotiated between the EU and the UK. That means that the British Parliament has not agreed to the deal currently on the table.
If no withdrawal agreement is ratified (“hard Brexit”/“no-deal Brexit”), the UK will automatically cease to be a member of the EU. As of 30 March 2019 (two years after triggering Article 50 to launch the Brexit process), the EU would have to treat the UK as a third country and the EU rulebook (“acquis”) would no longer apply to the UK. This would have wide-ranging consequences for citizens, businesses and public administration. The UK would no longer be part of the European Single Market and would have to trade under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
What is Germany doing to prepare for Brexit?
The Federal Government is taking its preparations for the UK leaving the EU very seriously. It is making arrangements for dealing with all possible scenarios, including the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. It is coordinating very closely with its partners in Europe and the European Commission.
A special Cabinet Committee was set up in November 2016 to coordinate and manage these preparations. The Cabinet Committee on the United Kingdom’s Exit from the European Union is chaired by the Federal Chancellor. Other permanent members are: the Federal Finance Minister, the Federal Foreign Minister, the Federal Economics Minister, the Federal Interior Minister, the Head of the Federal Chancellery and the Head of the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government.
The Federal Government is also in close contact with the German Bundestag, the Bundesrat and the federal states as well as with representatives of civil society, science and industry to ensure that preparations are properly coordinated. The Federal Government provides constantly updated information on the course of negotiations and explains what consequences may result from the UK’s exit from the EU.
The Federal Government attaches great importance to ensuring that all citizens and businesses in Germany affected by Brexit are kept informed about its consequences so that they can prepare sufficiently and in good time before Brexit at the end of March 2019.
I live and work in the United Kingdom. What will happen to my social insurance cover?
Please contact your pension insurance and/or health insurance provider with any questions you may have concerning the impact of a no-deal Brexit on your German social insurance cover. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has tabled legislation containing transitional regulations governing such issues. More information is available .
I'm studying in the United Kingdom. What will happen to my BAföG funding?
German trainees and students who began their course in the UK will not have to drop out on account of a lack of BAföG funding. They will continue to receive their funding until they have completed that phase of their course of study which they have already begun – including, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after 30 March 2019.
What will happen to my application for naturalisation?
Applicants who file an application for naturalisation before the date on which the UK leaves the EU but who do not receive a decision until after Brexit are to retain their previous German or British nationality, that is if they have fulfilled all the other criteria before the Brexit date. Multiple nationality will be accepted in such cases. This is one of the transitional provisions set out in draft legislation.
What consequences will Brexit have for businesses in Germany and Europe?
Brexit will not be without economic consequences for EU member states and especially for the United Kingdom. A great deal depends on the actual terms of the UK’s exit deal and what its future relationship with the EU will be.
The ifo Institute has carried out a study on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to assess what the possible economic impact might be on the German and European economy. The results of this first study show that, even under adverse conditions, businesses in the EU and especially in Germany will likely be able to manage the impact of Brexit. Nevertheless, developments in some business sectors may be less favourable. More information on the study is available .
Will British airlines still be able to fly to Germany? And will German airlines be allowed to fly to the UK?
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the United Kingdom will automatically leave the European Common Aviation Area (ECAA) on the day it leaves the EU. Discussions are currently being held on what measures can be taken to avoid the resulting disruption to air traffic.
In December 2018 the European Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation which grants British airlines air traffic rights for flights from the UK to the EU and vice versa – up until 30 March 2020. The condition is that the UK grants European airlines the same rights. Consultations on the proposal are still ongoing in the EU.
Will British lorries still be allowed to deliver goods to Germany? And what about German lorries with goods destined for the UK?
In December 2018 the European Commission put forward a proposal for a regulation according to which British haulage companies are to be granted access to the Single Market until 31 December 2019. The condition is that the UK grants European haulage firms the same rights. Consultations on the proposal are still ongoing in the EU. At the moment it is not possible to say what the outcome of those discussions will be.
Regardless of whether the regulation is adopted, there is also the option of taking recourse to ECMT permits. Holders of an annual or monthly ECMT international road haulage permit will continue to have access to the British road haulage market. Further information concerning applications and deadlines will be provided in good time on the website of the Federal Office of Goods Transport. For further information, see also the website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.
What now for German businesses?
Brexit will have consequences for businesses – including those in the financial sector. The Cabinet has adopted draft legislation to accompany the Brexit process in order to avert unwanted legal consequences and negative effects. It aims to keep the German financial system stable and fully-functional.
The draft legislation contains rules relating to taxation, the financial market and labour law:
- The aim of the tax rules is to prevent negative effects in regard to matters which have already been concluded. Vested rights are to be protected in those cases where Brexit leads to undesirable legal consequences for which the taxpayer is not to blame.
- The draft legislation contains rules which apply to the financial market in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a ratified withdrawal agreement. They aim to prevent negative effects on German businesses partnering British finance companies.
- The draft legislation also relaxes protection against unfair dismissal rules for so-called risk carriers in major banks. This special rule applies to bankers whose annual fixed remuneration is more than three times the contribution assessment ceiling applicable to universal pension insurance. Existing protection against unfair dismissal rules for all others employed in the financial sector will not change.
Making it easier for companies to change their legal form
The Federal Government proposed new legislation introducing additional merger options to facilitate the freedom of establishment in Germany for British firms after the UK leaves the EU. The German Bundestag adopted the Federal Government’s draft bill. The Bundesrat then also approved the bill and the new law entered into force on 1 January 2019.
The Transformation Act regulates the domestic and cross-border transformation of companies into another legal form, for example from a limited liability company into a stock corporation.
Brexit will in particular impact British limited companies, that is “private companies limited by shares” with head offices in Germany. There are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 such companies in Germany.
In addition to the existing possibility of turning a private limited company into a German company limited by shares, the new Act introduces the option of merging companies to form a commercial partnership, for instance a limited partnership formed with a limited liability company (GmbH & Co. KG). This new option can, for example, make it easier for small businesses to transition into a German legal form of corporation.
The Act also contains a transitional provision which applies to all cross-border merger processes which were begun before Brexit. It is enough for the partners to have had the draft terms of the merger recorded by a notary. The application for the merger to be executed in the Commercial Register must then be filed within two years, at the latest, after that happening. This transitional provision is to apply both in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019 and in the event of the EU and the UK ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement. In the former case, the merger must be recorded by a notary before Brexit, in the latter case before the end of the transitional period agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Where can businesses find the information they need relating to Brexit?
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has made information relating to Brexit available on its website.
For answers to all your Brexit-related questions, you can contact the BMWi’s hotline on +49 (0)30 340 6065 61 or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). General information can be provided on the state of negotiations as well as other issues, for example the Withdrawal Agreement or the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. You may be referred to the relevant federal ministry. Please note that the Federal Government is, however, not permitted to give legal advice.
Businesses in particular are advised to make active preparations for the legal changes which will result from Brexit. The UK will become a third country in relation to the EU following Brexit, possibly leading to substantial changes, for instance in regard to the trade in goods and delivery of services, depending on whether and what rules are adopted in regard to the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The European Commission has therefore published more than 70 Preparedness Notices () which outline the consequences of Brexit in various different economic sectors and explain what preparations are necessary.
Associations and other organisations also have wide-ranging information available on their websites which can be used to assess how your business will be affected by Brexit and what you can do to prepare:
Where can I find specific information relating to my branch of industry?
The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) has information for businesses on its website, for instance relating to financial services.
The website also provides information about licensing procedures, internal risk models, outsourcing and answers to FAQs, among other things.
The Deutsche Bundesbank has information on its website about banking supervisory matters, including for banks which are considering relocating or expanding as a result of Brexit (“incoming banks”).
It has also set up a hotline (+49 (0)69 9566 7372) and a central email address () for affected banks.
The customs administration has information on its website about how Brexit will impact customs and consumer tax law matters.
The website of the German REACH-CLP-Biozid Helpdesk of the Federal Authorities (Helpdesk of the Federal Office for Chemicals) has a link to wide-ranging information on the website of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) concerning the impact of Brexit on legislation on chemicals, in particular the REACH Regulation.
Many business associations in the field of financial services have a range of information relating to their respective sector, for example banks and insurance companies.
When it comes to medical products for human use, the German regulatory agencies have information about the impact of Brexit, including the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) and the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). They also have information specifically for pharmaceutical companies. In addition, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has information on its website about the impact which Brexit will have on businesses.
What will happen to British vehicle type approvals? Will EU type approvals still be recognised in the UK after Brexit?
In the event of the United Kingdom leaving the EU without a deal, the authority responsible for vehicle type approvals in the UK will no longer be an EU type approval authority within the meaning of the relevant EU directive. Vehicles registered after Brexit day will therefore require a type approval certificate which has been issued by an EU authority. The European Commission has put forward a proposal for a regulation under which vehicle type approval certificates issued by the British authority can be transferred to an EU authority under simplified conditions if this is done before Brexit day.
For answers to other questions relating to vehicle type approvals, please contact the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA).
Can I drive in Germany with my UK driver's licence – and vice versa?
Under the Convention on Road Traffic of 8 November 1968, British nationals are permitted to temporarily participate in road traffic in Germany if they are driving one of those categories of vehicles for which they are licensed in the United Kingdom. Proof of entitlement to drive must be furnished in the form of a valid UK driver’s licence or an international driving permit (IDP) in combination with a UK driver’s licence.
Anyone taking up residence in Germany must exchange their UK driver’s licence for an EU/EEA driver’s licence within six months of taking up residence. Two conditions apply: 1. German driver’s licences will also be exchanged in the UK without the need to take a driving test; 2. the driver’s licence was issued on the basis of a driving test taken in the UK and was not issued in a third country and then re-issued as a UK licence. In the latter case, a theoretical and practical driving test will have to be taken in Germany. The UK authorities will be responsible for deciding what to do about EU/German driver’s licences.
What's the story so far?
Each EU member state can decide to leave the European Union. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union sets out the process for leaving the EU. On 29 March 2017 the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, notified the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the European Union. This launched the official process of the UK’s exit from the EU, including negotiations on a withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.
The UK will automatically cease to be a member of the EU at the end of March 2019, two years after triggering Article 50 – that is unless the European Council and the UK reach a unanimous decision to extend the deadline.
In November 2018, following intense negotiations, the European Commission and the British Government agreed on a Withdrawal Agreement and on a Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. At a special meeting of the European Council on 25 November 2018 (Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union) the heads of state and government endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration.
Key points in the Withdrawal Agreement include rules safeguarding the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of British citizens living in the EU, as well as regarding the fulfilment of the UK’s outstanding financial commitments under the current multiannual financial framework. It also provides for a transition period lasting until the end of 2020, which could be extended once only by a maximum of two years based on a joint decision of the EU and the UK. In principle, EU law is to continue to apply to the UK during this transition period, although the UK will no longer be represented in EU bodies. The UK would also continue to be part of the European Single Market and of the Customs Union. The Withdrawal Agreement also contains governance rules aimed at guaranteeing effective implementation and enforcement of the Agreement.
The Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership, with the focus on trade and economic cooperation. That economic cooperation will encompass, among other things, the creation of a free trade area and cooperation on regulatory and customs matters. This is to be underpinned by rules guaranteeing fair competition. Negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU will not commence and be concluded until after the UK’s exit from the EU.
The British Parliament voted on the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement on 15 January 2019. A resounding majority voted against the Agreement. Prime Minister Theresa May announced that on 21 January she will be presenting Parliament with a proposal for the way forward.
For a Brexit timeline, go to .
What's this "backstop" everyone's talking about?
The backstop is a fall-back solution in the event that, after the UK leaves the EU and the transition period ends, no solution can be found by which to avoid a “hard border” between the Republic of Ireland (which is an EU member state) and Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom). The backstop agreement (officially the Northern Ireland Protocol) is intended to protect the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to the island of Ireland after many years of conflict.
Up until 1998 the British part of the “Emerald Isle” was ravaged by the bloody Northern Ireland conflict. The signing of the Good Friday Agreement, almost 20 years ago, marked the end of that conflict. Reconciliation between the conflicting parties was also helped by the fact that European integration meant that the border between the British and Irish EU partners ceased to be of relevance. Upon the UK’s exit from the EU the question will arise of what to do about this border in the future. Germany supports Ireland’s intention to avoid a return to a “hard border” on the island.
The Northern Ireland Protocol establishes a single UK–EU customs territory and a common external tariff as well as rules to maintain open and fair competition. The EU customs regime and other EU rules will continue to apply, too.
Does the UK have to continue to apply EU law during the exit negotiations?
The United Kingdom will continue to be a regular member of the European Union throughout negotiations on its exit. The UK will also still have a vote in the Council. The only exception is that it will not have voting rights in regard to the exit agreement.
The UK will still have to comply with EU law and cannot repeal it unilaterally.
Due to the priority of EU law over national law, the UK can also not enact any rules which deviate from EU law.
Does the UK have to continue paying financial contributions to the EU?
Until it leaves the EU, the UK will have to continue paying its financial contributions to the EU budget. Its financial commitments upon exiting the EU will be set out in the Withdrawal Agreement.
Would it be possible for the UK to rejoin the EU?
Yes, it is possible for the UK to rejoin the EU after leaving. However, under Article 50 para. 5 of the Treaty on European Union, it is clear that it would again be subject to the very long and complex procedure for joining the EU. And all the other EU member states would have to agree to the UK rejoining the EU.