Prepared for any eventuality – how the German Government is getting ready for Brexit

The German Government is working hard to prepare for Brexit and making arrangements for all possible scenarios.

The German Government is working hard to prepare for Brexit and making arrangements for all possible scenarios., © SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

16.04.2019 - Article

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU requires a high level of legal and political disengagement at European level and in the member states. Here you will find an overview of the measures that the German Government has put in place.

The aim is to give UK policymakers more time to create clarity on important questions concerning adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement and the nature of the future relationship. The German Government has made comprehensive preparations in good time for all withdrawal scenarios, irrespective of when the UK leaves the EU.

Brexit may have an impact on people’s plans for their personal and professional lives, particularly in the event that there is no deal.

The German Government has undertaken a host of measures at various levels for this case in order to cushion the possible effects as much as possible. 

Five important questions and answers:


The entry of UK nationals into Germany will still generally be possible for short stays (90 days within a 180‑day period) also in the event of a withdrawal from the EU by the UK without a deal. The EU has introduced a legal instrument that provides for mutual visa-free travel.

In addition, the question as to whether an accompanying family member requires a visa depends exclusively on his or her own nationality. An overview of countries whose nationals require a visa or are exempt from the visa requirement for the Federal Republic of Germany is available here. We therefore recommend that you plan extra time for this.

In the event of a withdrawal from the EU without a deal, UK mobile operators would no longer be subject to the European roaming regime, i.e. the current EU price caps for the use of intra-European networks would no longer apply. The transmission of data, telephony and SMS sent by mobile phones during a stay in the UK would then only be subject to the much less stringent UN rules for international roaming.

It is up to European and UK mobile operators to review whether their wholesale and retail roaming arrangements need to be updated in the event of a withdrawal from the EU without a deal. Following a withdrawal from the EU without a deal, higher roaming fees at wholesale and retail level are therefore possible. As an end customer, you can find out from your mobile phone provider which conditions will apply to your respective tariff.

As before, a vehicle that is registered in Germany must carry a registration certificate (part I) in order to drive on UK roads. In addition, a green international insurance card must be carried as proof of insurance cover from the day on which the UK leaves the EU.

A vehicle registered in the UK must carry an official registration certificate with certain minimum information or an international registration certificate in order to drive on German roads. In addition, a green international insurance card should be carried as proof of insurance cover from the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

However, this only entitles the bearer to drive on German roads for a temporary period in accordance with the Convention on Road Traffic of 8 November 1968. Otherwise, e.g. when taking up residence, the regulations of the respective country regarding vehicle registration must be observed.

Companies that are and wish to remain active trading partners with the UK must also prepare for Brexit. They should, for example, ascertain to what extent existing authorisations can be adapted by the main customs office (e.g. extension of the country group, processing and storage locations in the UK) and whether new customs authorisations must be applied for at the main customs office, in particular the authorisation to operate a storage warehouse for the import of goods (new applications will take some time to be processed).

For traders who have been trading with the UK but who have been operating exclusively within the internal market and have therefore not yet had any dealings with customs, this means, for example, that they must register with the customs authorities – an Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number (EORI number) is issued on request by the main customs office responsible for the region.

The exchange of information (e.g. in the form of customs declarations) between economic operators and customs authorities generally takes place electronically. The use of the existing IT system ATLAS for this purpose requires, among other things, registration and certified software.

Customs declarants must, as a rule, be resident in the European Union.

Declarants may be represented by customs agents, for example, when completing customs formalities.

It is up to the UK legislature to determine the conditions for entry into the UK from the European Union in the event of a withdrawal from the EU without a deal. Information about this is available here. It states that the conditions laid down by Union law for movements between member states will continue to apply to entry with pet animals even in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal. A pet passport issued by an official vet in a member state, containing information on the identification of the animal, its owner and proof of up-to-date vaccination against rabies, must therefore be carried as an accompanying document. This passport must also contain information on treatment for tapeworm, which must have taken place at least 24 hours and no more than 120 hours prior to entering the UK. It is also advisable to obtain information on permissible transport routes or means of transport before entering the country.

When entering the EU with pets from the UK, travellers with pets should take the precaution of ensuring that they meet the animal health requirements for entry from a third country when returning from the UK. The UK’s third country status (listed or not listed) then depends on the status of the listing procedure according to Article 13 of Regulation (EU) No. 576/2013. If this has not yet been initiated or completed, the conditions for re-entry from a non-listed third country must, as things currently stand, be formally fulfilled.

Information on cross-border travel with pets can be found here.

Further information for members of the public:

Below you will find further information on specific topics that may be of interest to you for your own preparations.


In the event of a withdrawal from the EU without a deal, the German Government will draw up a transition regulation to help UK and German nationals who apply for citizenship before the withdrawal date in Germany or the UK. They will be allowed to retain their previous UK or German citizenship even if the decision on their citizenship application is made after the withdrawal and provided that all other prerequisites for citizenship are met before Brexit.

The European Commission provides comprehensive information for people travelling between the EU27 and the UK.

German nationals in the UK can address their questions to the German Embassy in London:

FAQ of the German Embassy in London

Rights of EU citizens, Brexit and “Settled Status” - Video with German subtitles

If the UK leaves the EU without an agreement (“disorderly exit” or “no-deal Brexit”), the legal status of the UK nationals concerned will change permanently. They will lose their status as citizens of the Union or family members of a citizen of the Union and will become third-country nationals instead. They will lose their right of residence under EU freedom of movement rules and will in principle require a residence permit in order to be able to remain in Germany.

The German Government would like to ensure that all UK nationals and their family members who have been living in Germany under EU freedom of movement rules are able to remain in Germany. To this end, it has introduced the following arrangements:

1. Temporary exemption from the need for a residence permit

Firstly, if the UK withdraws from the EU without the Withdrawal Agreement, the German Government intends, by ordinance, to temporarily exempt those concerned from the need to hold a residence permit in Germany. The aim is to give both those affected and the foreigners authorities sufficient time to apply for and issue the necessary residence permits. When the ordinance expires, UK nationals will require a residence permit in order to be able to stay in Germany.

During the exemption period, UK nationals and their families residing in Germany under EU freedom of movement rules will continue to enjoy right of residence. Should this right of residence previously have granted an individual access to social benefits or child benefit, this access will remain unaffected. Existing access rights to health and long-term care insurance will also remain unaffected. Furthermore, during this period, such persons will continue to be permitted to be self-employed or pursue gainful employment. In particular, they will be permitted to take up any employment independent of their employer’s place of business and without seeking approval from the Federal Employment Agency.

2. Brexit Residence Act

Secondly, on 31 July 2019, the German Government approved a bill for a situation where the UK withdraws from the EU without the Withdrawal Agreement, the aim being to create legal certainty for all UK nationals and their family members who have made use of the EU's freedom of movement and made decisions affecting their lives in Germany in the legitimate expectation that this freedom of movement would continue.

The bill ensures that all UK nationals and their families residing in Germany under EU freedom of movement rules at the time of withdrawal will be able to receive a residence permit. Furthermore, the bill creates the necessary conditions under residence law for these persons  to continue to have access to the German labour market.

The law must still be approved by the German Bundestag. It will only enter into force in case the UK withdraws without the Withdrawal Agreement.

Click here  for more Information.


UK nationals resident in Germany and their family members will still be able to enter Germany also in the event of a withdrawal from the EU by the UK with no deal.

Please note, however, that delays and inconveniences may occur at the German border due to Brexit and the resulting changes to provisions governing entry and residence. The reason for this is that the entry of third-country nationals is subject to stricter inspection requirements than the entry of EU citizens into Germany. We therefore recommend that you plan extra time for this.

In order to facilitate border control formalities, documents should also be carried that provide evidence of your previous long-term stay in Germany. Various documents could be helpful here, such as any residence cards or permanent residence certificates issued to date, registration certificates and social security certificates, as well as employment and rental contracts, school certificates or comparable documents.

According to the UK Government, this will still be possible. The UK is envisaging a transition period during which EU nationals will continue to be able to enter the UK without a visa when holding an identity card or biometric passport. The UK Government provides information on its official website regarding the residence situation of EU nationals in the UK following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

UK nationals can continue to enter Germany without a visa for the time being. All UK nationals will be exempt from the requirement of obtaining a residence permit for a transition period of three months.

To remain in Germany thereafter, all such persons will have to apply for a residence permit from their local foreigners authority before the transition period ends. Until a residence permit is granted, such persons will retain access to the labour market and be entitled to be self-employed.

If no withdrawal agreement is reached with the UK, the law by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will uphold the principle of good faith and protect existing social security rights.

In the event of a withdrawal without a deal, the EU has adopted an emergency regulation which ensures that the 27 Member States will take into account any periods of insurance in the UK before the withdrawal in the EU coordination of the social security systems.

You will find questions and answers (in German) on work and social security after Brexit on the Website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

The Federal Ministry of Health provides information (in German) on the impact of Brexit on healthcare.

Answers to questions that employed persons and those with German statutory health and long-term care insurance in the UK as well as persons in Germany previously covered by the British National Health Service (NHS) may have, e.g. relating to reinsurance and reduced contribution rates for pensioners, can be found on the website of the German Liaison Agency Health Insurance – International (in German).

You can reach the information hotline on health insurance matters of the Federal Ministry of Health on +49 (0)30 340 6066 - 01.

In general, grants from the German Government (BAföG) for supplementary learning periods abroad in the UK will still be possible for a period of up to one year as a matter of principle, irrespective of Brexit.

Whether educational or training periods completed entirely in the UK can still be supported above and beyond this after a withdrawal from the EU without a deal depends, in line with the transitional regulations planned by the German Government, on the date on which the respective training period starts: Training periods commenced in the UK up until the day on which a withdrawal without a deal takes effect will be eligible for funding until they are completed there. On the other hand, training periods that are taken up after that date are not covered by the planned transitional regulations. Students and pupils who begin a period of training in the UK after this date can then, as is generally the case for training outside the EU, no longer be funded for the entire duration of their training, but only for a one-year period as a matter of principle.

A Master’s course commenced after a withdrawal from the EU by the UK without a deal is not covered by the planned transitional regulation, even if the course (usually a Bachelor’s degree) on which it is based was commenced prior to the withdrawal.

The option to receive a scholarship from a UK scholarship programme is not subject to the condition of EU membership and remains unaffected by a withdrawal from the EU without a deal.

Other rules apply to funding for courses of studies completed entirely in the UK. The purpose of a transitional regulation is to ensure that students who have commenced their studies in the UK prior to the country’s withdrawal from the EU can be supported with a scholarship in the event of a withdrawal without a deal prior to the end of their studies.

The EU has adopted a regulation intended to make it possible for all Erasmus courses (Erasmus+ programme) already started in the UK to continue.

In the event that the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal, Erasmus+ projects with UK participants will no longer be formally eligible for funding.

The European Commission’s contingency planning envisages that learning periods abroad are to be safeguarded as a minimum (Key Action 1: Learning Mobility of Individuals). Erasmus+ scholarships for participants in the UK at the time of the country’s withdrawal from the EU without a deal and for participants from the UK in Erasmus+ programme countries could thus continue to be funded until the end of their stay.

You can find questions and answers (in German) on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on education and research on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Information for companies


In order to prepare for Brexit, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the customs administration are working closely together and making extensive preparations for the impact of the possible Brexit scenarios. A crucial point to bear in mind is that the customs administration has experience of dealing with goods from third countries. However, it is to be expected that more processing and checks will be needed at times. The work of the customs authorities, particularly at the main international ports and airports that serve as hubs for international postal and courier services, will thus need to be increased as required. Agencies in regions where postal and courier services have so far operated distribution centres dealing with deliveries to and from the UK will also be affected.

In the fisheries sector, the EU has adapted regulations to provide financial support for affected EU fishermen in the event of an unregulated withdrawal of the UK from the EU and to ensure the smooth continuation of EU fishing activities in UK Waters.

Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (in German).

The German Government has introduced legislation creating tax regulations (in German) to cushion undue hardship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It also contains transition regulations for the financial market sector aimed at preventing a detrimental impact on financial stability and insurance holders in Germany.

For German companies that were set up in a British legal form, particularly that of a private company limited by shares (Ltd.), a simplified option for changing the company into another legal form in a regulated manner has been created for a transition period. The aim is to prevent undue hardship. The law entered into force on 1 January 2019.

The European Commission provides extensive further information to help those affected by Brexit to make their own preparations.

Background information about Brexit:

Withdrawal Agreement

At the end of November 2018, the Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration on future relations were endorsed by the Heads of State and Government of the EU27 as well as the British Government.

If it is ratified by both parliaments, it will enter into force with a transition period until 31 December 2020, which can be extended once until the end of 2022 at the latest, thus cushioning the impact of Brexit. Although the UK would no longer be a member of the EU or represented in EU institutions during this time, it would remain bound to EU regulations. Future relations between the EU and the UK would be negotiated during the transition period and enter into force after the end of this period.

For further information on the Agreement reached, please click here.

Withdrawal without an agreement (”no deal“)

If the UK Parliament does not reach agreement on the approval of the Withdrawal Agreement in the coming weeks and if the EU does not extend the withdrawal period under Article 50 beyond 31 October 2019, UK membership under Article 50 TEU would, without any further action on the part of the UK Government, end on 31 October 2019. The UK would then be a third country as regards the EU, and the EU acquis would no longer apply to it.

Although it is a clear priority for the German Government that the Agreement enter into force, in the light of the political uncertainties in the UK it cannot be ruled out that the UK will leave the EU without an agreement. The German Government is thus focusing on this case of an unregulated or disorderly Brexit. It is a matter of great importance to the German Government that the negative impact be cushioned as much as possible for those affected by Brexit during a transition period. The German Government has been working on preparations for this eventuality. A comprehensive set of regulations for the worst-case scenario has also been adopted at EU level.

All members of the public and companies in Germany affected by Brexit should keep themselves informed about the impacts of Brexit. All of them should prepare thoroughly and in good time for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Federal Foreign Office is coordinating the German Government’s preparations

As the lead ministry, the Federal Foreign Office is coordinating preparations for Brexit in Germany, liaising closely with all other federal ministries and the Federal Chancellery. The German Government is prepared for all possible eventualities.

It is liaising closely with the European Commission and the EU27 (the EU Member States excluding the UK) because the measures at EU level and in the Member States must be dovetailed.

The German Government is also in regular contact with the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat. It is communicating extensively with the Länder. To ensure that Brexit planning is coordinated within the German federal system, it is essential to include the Länder and their administrative regions in the preparations.

Furthermore, the German Government maintains close dialogue with civil society, representatives of members of the public affected by Brexit, scientific organisations and members of the business community. It keeps all those affected up to date with progress in the negotiations and possible consequences arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

What would happen in the case of a disorderly withdrawal?

Brexit may have an impact on people’s plans for their personal and professional lives, particularly if the withdrawal is disorderly. The German Government has undertaken a host of measures at various levels for this case in order to cushion the possible effects as much as possible. 

The German Government’s contingency plan is clearly defined

The German Government has adopted a series of measures for the case of a disorderly Brexit. These measures are clearly defined:

  • They have been drawn up as transition or emergency measures, are of a temporary nature only and are defined as narrowly as possible in terms of their field of application.
  • The aim is to cushion undue hardship and in certain narrowly defined cases to protect the principle of good faith.
  • As far as possible, they will deflect disadvantages for German and EU27 nationals and companies.
  • The idea is to clearly delineate the difference between EU membership and non-membership.
  • Finally, they are to fundamentally remain unilateral. It is not in the interest of the German Government to conduct negotiations with the UK on individual regulatory areas that would lead to a ”Brexit à la carte« .


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