29. Februar 2020

London ─ Towards British Citizenship

The fifth post on my “London ─ Living through history” series • touching modern British history • about Brexit • on gaining British Citizenship • let us maintain, build, and rebuild bridges.

Honestly, I must admit that I have long been procrastinating on my fifth post. This was not only due to a packed January and February, but also because of the prospects of touching Brexit. It’s a touchy subject after all. But anyways, it won’t stop me. In particularly, I wrote in my first post of this series (London ─ Living through History) that “I shall make an extra effort to focus on the intersection where history and my own life meet”. So here we go.

There are a few points where I can start with this story. But at the end it was many things together that led to me seeking British citizenship. The trigger to do so last year though was Brexit. Let’s go and look at some facts. Many Britons themselves were seeking German citizenship between 2016 and 2018 [1], although rates have been decreasing in 2019. Between 2016 and 2018 there were altogether 17,000 British citizens who acquired German citizenship, in contrast to the previous 15 years combined in which there were only 4,800 British citizens to do so.

However, as a German citizen I went the other direction. Whereas British citizens had an increased appetite for acquiring citizenship in EU countries such as Germany or Ireland, I was going to apply for British citizenship. But why?

Let me explain my particular circumstances. By 2019, I had been living for over five years in London and thus in the UK. I got married in 2019 which implied long-term ties to the United Kingdom as well. And as part of the Brexit happenings, I was encouraged to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. That really got me thinking about how that historical change of Brexit affected me in this regard. And I was not pleased about the prospects. Why not?

Even though the EU Settlement Scheme granted me settled status (“indefinitive leave to remain”) which is not quite indefinitive; clearly citizenship status is something far more valuable, more permanent. What to do next?

I identified a very brief window of opportunity to attain British citizenship while retaining my German citizenship, thus honoring my long-term ties to the United Kingdom as well as not giving up my German and thus EU citizenship─something that I would not be willing to do, not even remotely. So what was that opportunity exactly?

Germany generally does not allow its citizens to retain German citizenship when acquiring citizenship of another country, except when that other country happens to be member of the European Union. So in 2019 Britain clearly was member of the EU, so what was the problem then? (I shall at this point explicitly mention explicitly that none of what I am writing here should be taken as legal advice. If it was not already obvious, then it is now.) So the problem was that the decision whether you could keep their German citizenship would usually be based on the date when you acquired citizenship of another country. And since there is a potential wait of up to six months for the decision by the Home Office on a British citizenship application, and since there was a Brexit date (if unlikely) scheduled in 2019, would it end up being a gamble for me on whether I would lose my German citizenship or not?

It was not a gamble. Thankfully, Germany─in the so-called Brexit-Übergangsgesetz [2]─arranged for a solution where the date relevant was the application date for British citizenship, not the date when British citizenship was acquired. This gave me certainty─although at the price of paying Deloitte to assess whether I was right in my own assessments (the stakes being too high). I could apply!

The application itself was full of technicalities, over which I will mostly skip in this post. The good news for me was that the British citizenship was approved. After so many defining years in the United Kingdom that had been shaping and transforming my life, I am lucky to be a holder of dual citizenship. Don’t get me wrong, I feel responsibilities, locally and globally, even without holding a passport.

The bad news I think is Brexit in this regard. I feel for the British citizens who due to circumstances─that is not having lived for a long time in another EU country─are not qualifying for acquiring dual citizenship in another EU country at the moment, and might therefore suffer from likely cuts of rights when it comes to freedom of movement.

Note that in this article I have specifically focused on the technical aspects of citizenship and not as much beyond that. Let me guarantee you that there are not just technical aspects! But this post was the story on how the course of history and particular turns of history (Brexit) influenced my life. I received the question many times in the past years on what implications Brexit had for me. Well, here is part of the answer!

Let us maintain, build, and re-build bridges. In the metaphorical sense, although I like bridges as the one pictured above; I believe it is spanning over Regent’s Canal near Victoria Park.

1. Statistisches Bundesamt, accessed 2020-02-29. https://www.destatis.de/DE/Presse/Pressemitteilungen/2019/05/PD19_203_12511.html

2. Bundesgesetzblatt Online: Brexit-Übergangsgesetz, accessed 2020-02-29.
http://www.bgbl.de/xaver/bgbl/start.xav?startbk=Bundesanzeiger_BGBl&jumpTo=bgbl119s0402.pdf