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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 for members of the public and companies.

The German Government has made comprehensive preparations 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:

FAQ

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 adopted a legal act that provides for visa-free travel for as long as the UK does not introduce a visa requirement of its own.

In addition, the question as to whether accompanying third-country nationals require a visa depends exclusively on their own respective nationalities. 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.

Persons who are ensured under the German statutory health insurance scheme up until the withdrawal date and who are staying in the UK at that time will continue to be insured in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The German Government has made provisions for this with the act on transitional regulations to coordinate social security. For example, those insured under the statutory health insurance scheme who have stayed in the UK prior to its withdrawal from the EU and are undergoing treatment whose duration continues beyond the withdrawal date may have costs reimbursed if they do not have any other entitlements (e.g. via the UK National Health Service (NHS)). Pensioners who are resident in the UK and draw a pension from the German pension insurance scheme or from the pension insurance scheme for farmers will also continue to be insured under the statutory health insurance scheme beyond the withdrawal date. Likewise, students who are enrolled at a university in the UK prior to the withdrawal date will continue to be insured under the German statutory health insurance scheme for as long as they are enrolled at a university in the UK.

Moreover, UK nationals resident in Germany who have been insured via the NHS to date can join the statutory health insurance scheme in Germany as voluntarily insured persons. Membership must be applied for in writing to a health insurance provider of choice at the place of residence within a period of three months following the withdrawal date and applies retroactively from the day after the withdrawal. This means that, in the event that membership is applied for only at the end of the three-month period, treatment costs may be reimbursed for previous periods, albeit only up to the amount of the statutory health insurance rates. Differential amounts that cannot be excluded owing to private invoicing up until the date of membership would have to be borne by those affected themselves. We therefore recommend that the persons concerned apply for membership as soon as possible. Once the three-month time period has elapsed, access rights to statutory health insurance can no longer be guaranteed. Taking out private health insurance may be an option in such cases.

A European Health Insurance Card issued in the UK will cease to be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit. If, as a UK national, you require medical treatment during a temporary stay in Germany following the withdrawal date, the health care provider will invoice you privately. You will need to consult your health insurance company responsible for the UK to determine whether you are eligible for reimbursement. The same applies for German nationals receiving medical treatment during a temporary stay in the UK following the withdrawal date. It may be advisable to take out private travel health insurance.

As there are a wide range of different cases and questions regarding health and long-term care insurance, we recommend that you contact your respective statutory health insurance provider or your respective health insurance company in Germany directly. 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 NHS may have, e.g. relating to reinsurance and reduced contribution rates for pensioners, can also be found on the website of the German Liaison Agency Health Insurance - International DVKA (in German)

A vehicle registered in Germany must carry an international registration certificate in accordance with Article 4 of the International Convention Relative to Motor Traffic of 24 April 1926 in order to drive on UK roads. This is available from the licensing authority and is valid for one year. 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. This is generally available from your motor liability insurance provider. Prior to entering the UK, it is advisable to contact the competent authorities in the country in order to ascertain the specific requirements under national law.

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 must 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 should 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. The latter applies in particular to 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. The EORI (European Operators‘ Registration and Identification) number required for this is a number valid throughout the European Union under EU customs law and is issued free of charge by the Central Customs Authority on request. You can find contact information here for questions relating to EORI numbers. As of 1 October 2019, it has also been possible to apply online via the portal for citizens and businesses of the customs administration. A service account required to this end can be set up at www.zoll-portal.de (further information at www.zoll.de, search term “EORI”).

The exchange of information 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 EU. Declarants may be represented when completing customs formalities (e.g. by customs agents).

You will find further information for companies below.

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 (in English) about this is available here. It is stated here that the conditions laid down by Union law 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 authorised vet in an EU 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. You should also obtain information on permissible transport routes or means of transport before entering the country.

When entering the EU with pets from the UK, travellers should take the precaution of ensuring that they meet the animal health requirements for entry from a non-listed third country when returning from the UK.

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.

FAQ

You can find questions and answers concerning impacts on status rights of members of the public resulting from Brexit on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

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

Specific facilitations are in place for the carriage of deceased specimens, parts or products of protected species, such as musical instruments, objects made of reptile leather, jewellery and souvenirs made with parts of protected species. Travellers should take the time to inform themselves before travelling or purchasing such objects. For holiday travel, country-specific information is available here (in German), where information from Customs and from the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation for the UK can also be found. You can find further information on the website of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (in German).

In the event of a withdrawal from the EU by the UK with no deal, the status of affected UK citizens 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 therefore lose their right of residence under EU freedom of movement rules and will, as a rule, require a residence permit in order to be able to remain in Germany.

In the event of a withdrawal with no deal, the German Government will ensure that no one will have to leave the country and that all UK nationals and their family members who have been living in Germany under EU freedom of movement rules will be able to remain in Germany permanently.

Further information on stays, entry and naturalisation is available on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

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 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 inspections than the entry of EU citizens into Germany. We recommend that you plan more time for this than before.

Further information on stays, entry and naturalisation is available on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

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 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 initially be exempt from the requirement of obtaining a residence permit for a transition period of three months. Moreover, this also applies to their family members if they have been living in Germany under EU freedom of movement rules at the time of the UK’s withdrawal.

To remain in Germany thereafter, all such persons must apply for a residence permit from their local foreigners authority at the latest before the transition period ends.

Further information on stays, entry and naturalisation is available on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community.

If no withdrawal agreement is reached with the UK, the Act on Transition Provisions on Labour, Education, Health and Social Affairs, and Citizenship 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 on work and social security after Brexit on the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Information about family benefits is available on the family portal of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

The Federal Ministry of Health provides information 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 DVKA. (in German)

As there are a wide range of different cases and questions regarding health and long-term care insurance, we recommend that you contact your respective statutory health insurance provider or your respective health insurance company in Germany directly. You can reach the information hotline on health insurance matters of the Federal Ministry of Health on +49 (0)30 340 6066 - 01 or contact them here.




Grants from the German Government (BAföG)

In general, it will still be possible to receive grants from the German Government (BAföG) for supplementary learning periods abroad in the UK 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.

No exceptions are made for a Master’s course commenced after a withdrawal from the EU by the UK without a deal, even if the course (usually a Bachelor’s degree) on which it is based was commenced prior to the withdrawal.

You can find further information on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as well as here.

Support for gifted students

The following applies to scholarships awarded by scholarship programmes for intellectual excellence supported with Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds:

The option to receive a scholarship from a UK scholarship programme for intellectual excellence 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.

Erasmus+

In the event that the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal, the UK would lose its status as a programme country in the current Erasmus+ programme (2014-2020) with the result that Erasmus+ projects with UK participation would no longer be formally eligible for funding.

The EU’s contingency planning for Erasmus+ 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 can thus continue to be funded until the end of their stay. An EU emergency measure or other Erasmus+ projects with UK participation as well as for other EU funding programmes is envisaged in the European Commission’s proposal for contingency planning for the EU budget for 2019. An extension of the contingency planning for the 2020 financial year is currently the subject of a legislative procedure at European level.

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.

Further information for companies

  • The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides extensive information for companies to help them prepare for Brexit. You will find important questions and answers relating to areas falling under the remit of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy here.
    You can reach the Brexit hotline of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on +49 (0)30 340 6065 61 and via the following email address: brexit@buergerservice.bund.de
  • The Federal Ministry of Finance provides information on the impact of Brexit on the financial market and customs as well as on tax issues in connection with Brexit on its webpage dedicated to Brexit.
  • The Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection provides information regarding the impact of Brexit on patent, market, bankruptcy and company law as well as consumer protection.
  • Further information about transport can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.
  • The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has compiled questions and answers concerning food and agriculture.
  • Trade associations also provide information. For example, the Federation of German Industries has published a compendium of comprehensive guidelines and practical questions to help companies prepare for Brexit.
  • The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry has adopted a similar approach by publishing a Brexit checklist.
  • In order to compile the concerns of the German business sector and to cover as many relevant issues as possible in a single reference book, a number of German trade associations have drawn up a “Brexit compendium”.
  • The European Commission also provides extensive information on preparing for Brexit.
  • The European Commission has launched a campaign covering all business sectors to encourage companies to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
  • The European Commission’s Brexit Checklist for traders for companies operating in the EU
  • Customs guide of the Commission/Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union.
  • The REACH Helpdesk provides information on the impact of Brexit for companies marketing chemical substances in the EU or the EEA.

FAQ

As of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, import duties (customs, import turnover tax and excise duties) must be levied on goods traded with the UK as, under customs law, a third country and customs formalities taken into account. Customs will also be tasked with carrying out identity and baggage checks for travellers as nationals of third countries.

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 also serve as hubs for international postal and courier services, will thus be scaled up as required.

The German Government has passed a law creating tax regulations to cushion undue hardship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It also provides for transitional regulations for the financial market sector aimed at preventing a detrimental impact on financial stability and insurance holders in Germany.

You can find further information here.

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 transitional period. The aim is to prevent undue hardship. The law entered into force on 1 January 2019.

As things currently stand, the quotas of the Member States as set out in the 2019 TAC and quota regulation will be maintained. There is, however, no automatic right of access to UK waters. The available quotas for EU fishermen can therefore currently only be used in the EU part of the quota area concerned after Brexit. By the same token, UK fishermen would no longer enjoy automatic access to EU waters following a withdrawal of the UK from the EU without a deal.

Imports of fish and fishery products from the UK will be subject to the same customs duties and formalities as imports from third countries. In addition, the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008 apply, according to which all imports from third countries must be accompanied by a catch certificate proving the legality of the origin of the fishery products. This catch certificate must have been validated by the UK authorities. The fishery products must have been produced in accordance with the relevant conservation measures.

Further information can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

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

Background information about Brexit:

Withdrawal Agreement

The Withdrawal Agreement, together with the Political Declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, was politically endorsed in a revised version by the Heads of State and Government of the EU27 on 17 October 2019. The changes to the Agreement as compared to the text endorsed back in November 2018 concern the Northern Ireland Protocol, which ensures that the integrity of the EU single market and the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the continuation of the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, are maintained. Moreover, amendments were made to the Political Declaration.

If the Agreement 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 following its withdrawal and enter into force after the end of this period. The UK House of Commons has yet to sign off on the Withdrawal Agreement. The European Parliament will not give its consent until the ratification process in the UK has been completed.

The Member States of the EU27 therefore decided on 28 October 2019 to accept the UK’s request and to grant a further extension. Under these terms, the UK is expected to withdraw from the EU by 31 January 2020. If the ratification process is completed on both sides before the deadline, then the UK will leave the EU on the first day of the following month.

More information on the agreement reached is available here.

Withdrawal without an agreement (“no deal”)

If it is not possible to bring the Withdrawal Agreement into force, the UK’s membership of the EU under Article 50 TEU would end without an agreement. 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 also 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 national 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.

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 transitional 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 are to deflect disadvantages for German and EU27 nationals and companies.
  • The idea for them 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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