The deadline for the UK to leave the European Union will now officially expire on January 31, 2020. Even though in the course of the upcoming reelections, Boris Johnson is no longer exclusively pursuing a no-deal Brexit, it is still unclear whether or not the UK will leave the European Union at the beginning of next year with or without a deal. A no-deal Brexit would have far-reaching consequences for British citizens currently living and working in other European countries such as Germany for example.
The German Residence Act principally stipulates that non-EU nationals are only allowed to live in Germany and can only be employed or commissioned with other paid services or work if they hold a German residence title (such as a residence permit) entitling them to do so. If the UK were to leave the European Union, British citizens would no longer be EU nationals and thus be subject to that law. If Germany does not make any further arrangements for the no-deal scenario, British citizens would even need a visa to enter Germany in case a no-deal Brexit became reality.
However, Germany has already taken precautions for a no-deal Brexit-scenario so that there is no cause for concern for British citizens currently living and working in Germany. On July 31, 2019, the German Federal Government presented the draft of the so-called Brexit Residence Transition Act (in German: Brexit-Aufenthalts-Überleitungsgesetz) which will supplement the current Residence Act in case of a no-deal Brexit. According to the draft of the law, all British citizens and their family members would have a special right to obtain a residence title for Germany that would enable them to continue staying and working in Germany provided that they already reside in Germany under the principle of the European freedom of movement on the date the UK leaves the European Union without an exit agreement. Currently the law has not yet been passed by the German Parliament, but is expected to pass through the legislative process without delay.
In order to give German authorities sufficient time to process the numerous applications for a German residence title made by British citizens in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the German government plans issuing a decree that will at least temporarily exempt British citizens from the requirement of a residence title for Germany. This transitional period would initially last for three months with the option to be extended for additional six months. During this period, British citizens and their family members entitled to the freedom of movement in Germany at that date, maintain their right of residence. To be allowed to stay in Germany beyond that transitional period, all affected British citizens must have submitted an application for a continuing residence title to the locally competent immigration authority by the end of the transitional period.
Some immigration authorities in Germany are already offering British citizens living in their jurisdiction the possibility to already apply for a residence title now. In the event that there will be no Brexit, those precautionary applications would then automatically be nullified and destroyed. That way, authorities are trying to prepare as best as possible for a no-deal Brexit scenario. It might therefore be advisable for British citizens to contact the responsible immigration authority already now in order to find out how the authority is structuring the procedure in their region.
In case the UK and the European Union can find an agreement after all, the Brexit Residence Transition Act would not enter into force. The currently debated agreement would stipulate a transitional period during which the UK would still be treated as a member state of the European Union. This means all rights under the principle of free movement would continue to apply and would remain valid for British citizens and their family members.