back to article Not auf wiedersehen – yet! The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech

After Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016, there was a flurry of articles about how London's tech startups, shocked by the prospect of Brexit, could soon decamp to cheap, fun Berlin. German politicians fed the hype. The Berlin authorities opened a new trade office in London explicitly to capitalise on Brexit uncertainty …

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There are more levels than that

I started sorting out our BrExit alternatives and had the person in the passenger seat (the SWMBO) yank the handbrake for the time being.

When you have two kids in school at least one of them will be within a year or two of exams either here or in the "retreat location". You really do not want to move them at that point. Though at some point a lot of us will have to - there are at present 4-8 job openings in Eu versus UK and that ratio is continuing to grow.

So if the current trends continue, the SWMBO will let go off the handbake. Leaving the politics aside it is pure economics - the businesses are voting with their feet, err R&D budgets. We will have no choice but to follow - there are families to feed.

As far as locations, Berlin is not bad by the way - they have been rebuilding it at a frantic pace for the last 20 years. There are better places though. All of them massively advertising too - Stockholm, Dublin, etc are all taking slots and spreads on both Internet and printed media. Can't blame them too - it is not personal, it is business.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Dublin has the advantage (for UK residents), that they speak English, so you don't need to learn a new language to do business there.

In Germany, you are very much in the hands of regulations, which is great for employees, not so much for employers working to tight deadlines. The 40 hour week is pretty much standard and not exceeding a rolling-average of 48 hour weeks means that putting in hours for a deadline for a couple of weeks is fine, but bad planning isn't something you can get around by making people work ridiculous hours every week, like you seem to be able to do in Silicon Valley, for example. If your employees work long hours for a project, then you have to accept that they will need to come later or go home earlier in the weeks following, to reduce the number of hours in the "overtime account."

Berlin isn't the only place to go either. Munich is very cosmopolitan and very media savvy, but more expensive than Berlin. Frankfurt is good for finance based startups. But why, in an online world, do the businesses need to be centered around major cities?

As to things like credit cards, the Germans still shun credit and, generally, the credit card is linked directly to your bank account and 100% of the balance is transferred at the end of the month and if you don't have enough in your account, then it goes against your overdraught.

Given that and credit card doesn't really bring any advantages to paying with a debit card or cash, but retailers have to pay higher transaction charges, it isn't really a surprise that credit cards aren't widely accepted. I use mine purely for buying online - although many German online stores will allow you to pay on invoice or cash in advance, if you don't have a credit card.

German credit cards also, generally, don't offer any additional protections over normal debit cards or cash, in terms of purchase insurance etc. that, for example, UK credit cards offered (when I was in the UK, not sure if that is still a thing).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are more levels than that

Fair comments. I am one of the co-founders of a very small analytics business in Edinburgh. Primarily tools and consulting, mainly manufacturing, some banking and some government/defence work. As of about 5 months ago, we think 50% of our workforce are EU citizens relatively recently based in the UK, all well qualified, we decided to actively look at mainland European bases primarily because of the perceived hostility from Britain. This was exacerbated by the fact that many of the staff are married or partners with EU bases. The occasional headline from the Daily Fail or the Grauniad either damning workers or reporting on another group of children born in the UK to EU citizens being denied permanent residence did not help.These are mobile workers, all highly skilled. They are also all shareholders to greater or leesser degrees.

I've spent the last month in Germany and we have had extremely good support in Berlin. We have now negotiated offices - significantly reduced rent for the first 18 months, which might support some of the cost off the moves, we will take a big hit and as we don't and have never practiced a policy of exploiting easy regulation to deal with demand ebb and flow, the employment laws are very relaxed. Taxes will be a bit higher, but support from the local technical university looks promising. 7 people are transferring after school terms end this summer.

Now we might be (probably are) a little unusual - very skilled demanding work although reasonable hours. A lot of good will (expand when we ned to but everyone mucks in when necessary and so we have expanded very slowly to meet demand (profit based bonuses for all and a stake in the organisation means that there is a lot of willing).

Germany won't change any of our EU business - actually having continued free access to commissioning bodies in the EU will be a bonus.Employees in the UK will also remain stable as long as they wish to be.

Now we are atypical, no more than 100 employees, almost all with PhD/MSc level qualification in technical subjects and many/most with two languages. We are not big, but we really do pay a great deal of tax! With knock on effects to the local economy.

Just my observations as one of the larger shareholders and a founder, but it is not going to get better in the UK.

In our case this will be a drain on the UK economy. And Edinburgh really is a very nice base But het, Germany (even with <10% staff based there our 37% on our our business) is pleasant, civilised and if you can move (and most people with transferrable skills can) attractive. Although not without some problems - what major city does not it seems good.

Let you know know 18 months time about the reality. But my partner is Norwegian, she likes Edinburgh but might not be averse to a move back to the continental mainland.

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Re: There are more levels than that

> I am one of the co-founders of a very small analytics business in Edinburgh

So, not waiting for the (increasingly likely) IndeyRef 2 or Scotland becoming Canada's 11th province?

If Scotland *had* gone for independence already just imagine how many firms would be thinking about a quick jump north of the border. Culture's pretty similar and you'll pick up the language in no time.

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Re: There are more levels than that

So, not waiting for the (increasingly likely) IndeyRef 2

May I remind you that the referendum has to be allowed by Westminster and the only way Josephina Vissarionovich will allow it will be if hell freezes over. While it may have started to happen (snow in late April), it has not happened just yet.

So, for the time being, Edinburgh is not a safe bet. In fact the opposite - as outside the Eu as possible and getting the funding a red headed stepchild who "voted wrong" will get.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are more levels than that

Actually that is a good point. And if Scotland remained within the eurozone that might change things. I have lots of problems with the SNP and their attitude, but although it would be difficult for 5-10 years, it might be the making of a modern Scotland

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are more levels than that

but as pointed out above, there is an IF. A big one. And we have only shifted about 8% of our staff (on their request) although that might well increase. Edinburgh has a lot of advantage (other than some of the rather - he says looking out of the window) and excellent transport links are part of the positive.

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Re: There are more levels than that

"... you'll pick up the language in no time"

As long as you don't have to deal with Doric. (German would be a lot easier.)

I used to know a guy from a small village outside Aberdeen who followed his wife here. He complained he couldn't get a job in NL and couldn't understand why. I politely tried to explain that many Dutch folk might find it a bit difficult to understand him. Suggested he try a more standard variety of English - but he couldn't. Never had the heart to tell him that the English guys on the club team couldn't understand him either, and the one Scotsman (different part of Scotland) found it difficult. Eventually I managed to understand about one word in two he said and was v proud of that. An interesting combination of Scots dialect vocabulary and pronunciation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are more levels than that

May I remind you that the referendum has to be allowed by Westminster and the only way Josephina Vissarionovich will allow it will be if hell freezes over.

There are some people in Crimea who might be able to advise on that. [Not that I'm suggesting the EU would send over some men in unmarked uniforms to help with the count].

Incidentally small point; should be Teresa Yosifovna Vissarionovicha. No Th in Russian so any confusion with the original Teresa May is bound to occur.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There are more levels than that

One thing people are not talking about is the hoards of immigrants causing trouble, including assault, rape and murder, across Germany, which the disloyal German media often fail to report, caused by the disloyal policies of the German 'progressive' 'leadership' and establishment; do you really want a wife or children having to deal with that threat?

I would not want to be in any country with such disloyal 'progressive' immigration policies as German, Sweden, France, Holland, Norway.. etc.! The UK fortunately has less 'progressive' politics, so is not as far down that dangerous path.

Progressive is just a deceptive alias for degenerate Cultural Marxist disciples of the evil Jewish Frankfurt School (e.g. Political Correctness, 'Racism', 'Gender', 'Sexism' etc.,) and useful idiot SJWs and antiFa, who may not know that its Common Purpose is to make covert cultural warfare on host countries to conquer them for covert Jewish rule.

BTW, anyone who suggests that I'm anti-semitic is a fool, because most Jews have no Semite blood, even Jewish genetics scientists have said this, thus they also have no valid historical claim on the areas some call Israel and Palestine!

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Unhappy

"I'd definitely recommend it, but it would be difficult if you didn't have a German speaker,"

And given the UK's tradition of s**t language teaching that is likely to remain so.

Dublin is likely to be preferred British option.

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Re: There are more levels than that

One thing people are not talking about is the hoards of immigrants causing trouble, including assault, rape and murder, across Germany, which the disloyal German media

Gee... which bridge did you get from under? Definitely not from under one of those on the Spree near Tiergarten though.

I was in Berlin last year and there is something about integrating and swallowing immigrants Germans can and should teach the UK. There is no ifs, no buts, no coconuts - the only allowed answer to "Sprechen sie Deutsch?" is a choice of "Ya" or "Ya". Even after swallowing 1M refugees in less than 2 years (which as Mutter noted we are guilty of causing), Germany is still more integrated and less visible than Luton, Bradford or even parts of London like most of Barking and Dagenham. It also does not allow any form of religious justice (while UK by the way does).

I am just going to ignore the rest of your rant. You definitely need meds. Badly.

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Meh

Re: Voland's right hand Re: There are more levels than that

".....Stockholm...." Er, no! Just check out the Scandinavian winters for a good reason why not to.

"....Dublin...." Much better option than Berlin on just about every point, plus the fact it's a lot closer so you can just pop back to Blighty for a visit without it being a major journey. The one problem is Ireland is one of the PIGS, and will suffer when the wheels fall off the EU wagon. Indeed, Germany only currently has a booming economy because the EU allows it to dominate the PIGS and the rest of Southern Europe. What will cause Germany future problems is when the PIGS and the rest of Southern Europe stop buying German export goods. Just look at how acutely the Germans reacted to the Greek mess to understand how the whole German banking system and economy depend on there being a supine EU for Germany to sell to.

Personally, Barcelona tops the list. Berlin wouldn't even be on it.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Literally no way Scotland gets an indyref before UK leaves the EU, even hell freezing over won't do it - and the EU won't let Scotland in post that because their economy makes even less sense than Japan's does.

FWIW moving your company because of the front page of the mail is daft.

Once the UK leaves the EU it'll be much easier to get non-EU skilled migration into the UK and skilled EU migration to the UK isn't going to be anything significant in terms of visas, think I've said it before, the US visa system is extremely over engineered and it's never been a problem for skilled workers nor academics to get visas. Trump might be an exception to that but he's an extreme exception and it's still fairly easy.

EU's problem is free movement of people creates free movement of labour rather than free movement of skills (right now the UK needs skills not labour and we're getting labour not skills in contrast to Germany who need labour more than skills - generalisation but in numbers terms it's true). There's been a lot of data recently showing that EU migrants to the UK are vastly overqualified for the jobs they're doing and that's what's creating the friction. Once it can be brought under some semblance of control it'll finally be possible to find the right balance. We can't do that from within the EU.

What none of these cities have that London does is infrastructure, and those cities just aren't capable of resolving that. You can't just pick up a chunk of London and dump it in Dublin or Frankfurt or anywhere else, nor spread it around, it doesn't work like that and that's borne out by the numbers.

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FAIL

"it'll be much easier to get non-EU skilled migration into the UK"

Given that 1/2 of the UK net migration is from non EU countries (the stuff the Home Office could control, if it wanted to and it's management were not a bunch of incompetent motherf***ers) what makes you think this is a problem now?

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Re: There are more levels than that

The attractions of Munich, as a base for a Hi-tech business are considerable.

Forget the Oktoberfest, Munich is one of the most cultural cities in Germany, it has great elegance, good schools, including a choice of international schools, universities that teach degree courses in English. The night life is varied, and safe, it has an invigorating climate, and is a terrific base for outdoor pursuits and exploring Europe.

As far as start-ups are concerned, it is already one of Europe's most important research and hi-tech hubs. The sorts of services required by start-ups are on the door step. Direct connections to London, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Singapore and most other tech centres are plentiful, unlike Berlin (which can't even build itself an airport).

As an enviably pleasant place to live, property prices are higher than say, Berlin,which is a reflection on the comparative desirability and convenience of the two cities. To put it into context, on German reunification, a number of businesses and institution refused to move back to Berlin, despite government pressure for them to do so.

I never had any issues with bank/debit/credit cards in Germany. But then credit card debt is dumb debt, so perhaps the Germans know a thing or two about the matter. If one is not a natural planner and budgeter, then expect to be regarded as irresponsible. Cautious and thrifty German habits are easily acquired. Cash is king, use that to your advantage.

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Re: "it'll be much easier to get non-EU skilled migration into the UK"

"The 40 hour week is pretty much standard and not exceeding a rolling-average of 48 hour weeks means that putting in hours for a deadline for a couple of weeks is fine, but bad planning isn't something you can get around by making people work ridiculous hours every week"

Ireland is also signed up to the working time directive, which is where those rights come from.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Part of the problem for long term EU residents in the UK is documentation, and I can easily imagine how.

When I arrived in the UK in 92' all I had to do was to show my passport - company sorted NI and tax number, and for the first couple of years I did not have a utility bill in my name. As long as I did not own a house, no-one official were interested in where I lived. Thus, there was no official proof (other than NI payments) that I was there.

Most other countries (I am in my 5th European country now) require you to register with authorities, and one of the benefits is that there is no discussion whether you were resident or not. Utility bills are only used between you and the utility.

We (my wife and I) both felt extremely welcome in the UK, in my 5 years I met one person who grumbled about foreigners and jobs, mnmnn. But I do have the impression the atmosphere has changed and by now we do not regret we left.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Munich is one of the most cultural cities in Germany, it has great elegance, good schools, including a choice of international schools, universities that teach degree courses in English. The night life is varied, and safe, it has an invigorating climate, and is a terrific base for outdoor pursuits and exploring Europe.

Sounds like a great place to, erm, do business? Management Mecca no doubt - but we're talking about people doing actual work producing actual economic value. FWIW London has all those things too and at least 60% of the population speak English.

On EU migration numbers the only thing we know for sure is the ONS migration numbers are a massive underestimate. Literally nobody knows how many EU citizens are living/working in the UK.

Also again - the key here is finding a migration balance and being able to control immigration where it's causing a problem in specific sectors and specific social issues - and then being able to vote for somebody else if the government of the day isn't getting it right.

But I do have the impression the atmosphere has changed and by now we do not regret we left.

Impression. On the right we have the mail doing what the mail does and on the left you have the guardian making shit up to make everybody feel bad - and the foreign press' take on it is even more hilarious. Impression. Different people feel different effects of migration - I live in London and I think the immigration makes it a better more interesting city, then I visit the north east where I'm from to see family and I see the utter catastrophe that has happened up there and everybody knows why - and then overlay the sentiment on the brexit map. Unskilled workers can't afford to live in London is the simplest explanation of why it's an issue I can come up with.

Everybody who loses out feels personally harmed by it, and it doesn't have to be this way there's an alternative option. I don't have a hard time seeing why everybody in London is pro unconstrained immigration, it's the fact they've forgotten there's a whole country out there.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Munich came out top of the crime report this week, it is the major city with the least crime.

Berlin comes out worst.

And a lot of people live in Munich, who actually produce things. There are a lot of factories and office blocks around the city and its suburbs, including BMW, Siemens and several other major international brands.

It is probably one of the better cities for living in, if you don't speak German, the other being Frankfurt, from my experience.

One of the nice things is that, until very recently, no building could be higher than the Fraunkirche, so there is a complete derth of tower blocks in the city itself, so it has kept its charm.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Munich is a city of 2 million people. That is not a major city. Large sure - about the same as Manchester - but not major.

Also you misunderstand I didn't say nobody produces things there - I was suggesting your reasons for moving there are an irrelevance. I have no doubt there's lots of German business in Germany, meanwhile Siemens are investing massively in the UK.

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Re: There are more levels than that

Actually, it is 1.1 million and that makes it the 3rd largest city in Germany.

Hamburg is 2nd with 1.5 million and Berlin the largest with 3.6 million.

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Re: There are more levels than that

@big_D .. a bit of Googling provides the real numbers:

Last counted population of Munich (City) in March 2017 is: 1545405

(Aktueller Bevölkerungsbestand zum 31. März 2017: 1 545 105 Personen)

The larger urban zone (outskirts) brings has over 2.5 million and the metropolitan area around 6 million.

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Privacy

There're difficulties in relocating and you're brave to set up in another language and culture but a distinct advantage of Germany is their strong privacy legislation. This could be a significant plus point for some (especially when compared to the UK).

Go, while the getting is good?

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Re: Privacy

There are plenty of other advantages:

1. Most major cities are a couple of light years ahead of UK in terms of public transport

2. The rules governing the employee-employer are not amended whenever the government sees fit (the way Cameron and Osborn defanged TUPE).

3. The education system is mostly FREE.

4 ...

A lot of this applies to most of the EU, it is simply a matter of doing the math (and facepalming after you have tallied the numbers).

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Re: Privacy

Er, privacy regs and laws are the same across the EU.

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Re: Privacy

Bu they will not stay so with Britain outside - and if you want to do business within a larger economy.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Privacy

Er, privacy regs and laws are the same across the EU.

Not quite, although there are large similarities because they indeed derive from the same guidance.

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FAIL

"Er, privacy regs and laws are the same across the EU."

No.

The regulations are.

The laws that implement them are not.

As El Reg has reported the UK DP law is so bad that the ICO refused an information request on the grounds that disclosure could damage the whole Brexit negotiation process.

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Re: Privacy

Most major cities are a couple of light years ahead of UK in terms of public transport

I'm gonna assume this is some sort of funny joke.. Have you been to a major city ever?

The rules governing the employee-employer are not amended whenever the government sees fit (the way Cameron and Osborn defanged TUPE).

Did the Tories touch tupe? They floated reform but I don't think it went anywhere? Tupe is simply the implementation of 2001/21/EC regardless.

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Re: Privacy

No, they're not.

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Why Berlin?

You're trying to relocate tech into an already heavily built-up city in population, economic and government terms. Aren't there smaller, less costly alternatives in Germany? How about outside Dusseldorf, which has good airport connections.

Its like trying to coax startups into costly London. It will never become a true tech hub, because there isn't really room for a tech hub between the government and the finance industry.

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Re: Why Berlin?

Exactly. I live near Osnabruck. It is a great area, lots of unspoilt countryside, relatively cheap (I got a 100 Sq.M loft in a nearby town for 400€ a month). Internet is acceptable (100mbps is around 50€ a month) and it is direct on the A1 between Dortmund and Hamburg.

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Re: Why Berlin?

Start up areas tend to benefit from network effects: once somewhere is established it attracts other parts of the eco-system, which help employees move between companies or create their own. Berlin's attraction was not just cheap rents, but also the ability to attract quality programmers and engineers from Poland and elsewhere.

That said, start ups also tend to congregate around other existing business areas, which is why Düsseldorf also has its fair share (telecoms, fintech, etct.) as do Munich and Frankfurt. London's scene is almost entirely dependent upon money from the investment sector and if that moves, it will. But don't expect any major announcements until the necessary deals have been done.

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Gimp

Re: Why Berlin?

Don't forget the "Speciality clubs" that Berlin is famous for. Allegedly.

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Re: Why Berlin?

I know its hard to believe, but bankers aren't the only people that like night life. The reason I chose Berlin post-Brexit (besides speaking passable German) was excellent night life on the same level as London. I've visited a few other cities in Germany, and while they're not exactly sleepy, they don't compare with Berlin.

(And, yes, some of those clubs are a bit 'special'...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why Berlin?

"Its like trying to coax startups into costly London. It will never become a true tech hub, because there isn't really room for a tech hub between the government and the finance industry."

I suspect the finance industry might be freeing up some space.

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Anonymous Coward

The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

This will be an easier move whilst we're still in Europe, but supposing you move your company to Berlin tomorrow, and in two years time the Article 50 machinations are over, and the UK has properly left Europe. What would be the legal position of your company, your staff and you in Berlin at that point?

Are the German authorities planning to offer a fast track citizenship programme as well?

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

EU citizens can get unrestricted residence permits pretty easily and, once you have one (and you must apply in order to stay in the country), applying for citizenship is pretty straightforward.

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

As long as you can speak and write German, have a place of residence and you are in full time employment, you can apply for citizenship (there are a few other requirements as well, but those are the main ones).

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

Are the German authorities planning to offer a fast track citizenship programme as well?

This has been tabled by several politicians there. It was put on the backburner to see if it will be necessary (depending on the level to which Josephina Vissarionovich May will screw Britain in her quest for personal dictatorship).

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

I must protest about your appalling slur on the good name of our Prime Minister and insist you correct it: her name is Josephina Vissarionovna May.

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ZSn

Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

"As long as you can speak and write German, have a place of residence and you are in full time employment, you can apply for citizenship (there are a few other requirements as well, but those are the main ones)."

I thought that it took three years and that if your second nationality at the time of getting the German one is not an EU nationailty then you have to give it up. I.e. of you started now you couldn't keep the British one, or have I got that wrong?

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

I think you may be correct, but as I have the right to an Irish passport (recently acquired the documents), I am pretty happy with the German approach.

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

I thought that it took three years and that if your second nationality at the time of getting the German one is not an EU nationailty then you have to give it up. I.e. of you started now you couldn't keep the British one, or have I got that wrong?

The requirement to give up the other nationality has recently been relaxed. It's difficult anyway as many countries will not allow citizens to return their passports. I don't know anything about the three year rule but I don't see things changing much until the UK has officially left, which might be some years hence because leaving the EU is so fucking difficult. This is probably the main reason for May calling the election: a bigger majority might give her a more pliable parliamentary party (yeah, right), but it also puts the subsequent general election back to 2022 by which point people might not care so much that regarding Europe very little has changed. One nice aspect of the current SNAFU is that the ECJ is likely going remain the arbiter of any settlement.

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

>Josephina Vissarionovna May.

Althouth it would take somebody pretty brave to check

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

The requirement to give up the other nationality has recently been relaxed. It's difficult anyway as many countries will not allow citizens to return their passports.

There's also the issue that forcing a citizen to give up a nationality may deprive them of their rights.

I am glad my son has 3 passports: one EU from my nationality, one from his mother and a UK one, and he's legally allowed to keep all three when he becomes 18.

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Re: The Berlin scene tempting Brexit tech...

"Althouth it would take somebody pretty brave to check"

Maybe the original was an each way bet.

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Gimp

"Althouth it would take somebody pretty brave to check"

Although she does seem to share the German fondness for well made leather.

*Icon because of ongoing disregard for personal privacy. Amongst other things.

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Holmes

Free movement of people

Sometimes you want someone from your tech supplier on site ASAP. If you're in Paris, you may be worried that a company in post-Brexit London will have cost and bureaucracy issues with this that won't affect their counterparts in Berlin.

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