- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2016

BERLIN | Days before Britain’s referendum on staying in the European Union, those on continental Europe — especially expat Brits — are pleading with U.K. voters to stay and reassessing their life plans and opportunities if the vote goes the other way.

“I have been making plans to move back to Great Britain to go to graduate school, but the idea of moving back to a U.K. which is not part of Europe is very unpleasant,” said Jen, 27, a Berlin-based editor from Birmingham who declined to give her last name. “In fact, it would be enough to make me reconsider the move.”

Such expatriates have also been the targets of appeals from leading European media outlets that have been weighing in on the vote to leave — dubbed the Brexit — in recent days.

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, one of the country’s most widely read publications, urged “Please Don’t Go!” on the cover of its Brexit-themed issue last week.

“If Britain is clever, it will remain a member of the EU, because it will recognize that the future of the West is at stake,” wrote Der Spiegel editors Klaus Brinkbaumer and Florian Harms.



Germany’s leading politicians — along with those in Italy, the Netherlands, France and elsewhere — hold similar views. As much as Britain’s often-standoffish attitude toward the EU has rankled in the past, there’s a strong consensus among the continent’s elite that Brexit would be very bad for the alliance’s future.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already expressed hopes that Britain will stay, while Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble told Der Spiegel that the U.K.’s access to the single market would regrettably come to an end with Brexit and hurt the country’s economy.

“In is in, out is out,” warned Mr. Schauble.

Nearly 80 percent of Germans want Britain to stay in the EU, according to a Der Spiegel poll.

Some Germans even took it upon themselves to persuade British voters in person.

Under the slogan “Bratwurst against Brexit,” members of the Association of Young Entrepreneurs, an industry group for German entrepreneurs under 40, tried to woo British voters by handing out free bratwurst sausages in London’s Trafalgar Square on June 15.

“We don’t want the British to have to go without German bratwurst in the future,” said association Chairman Hubertus Porschen in Berlin. “That’s why we’re campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU with charm — and mustard.”

Some outlets were offering advice to nervous U.K. passport holders looking for Brexit contingency plans. TheLocal.fr, a website for expats, posted a guide on applying for French citizenship for British expats on this side of the English Channel.

But politically, while the French government is standing alongside Germany, not all politicians share President Francois Hollande’s views. Far-right politicians from Marine le Pen’s National Front party have called for a similar EU-membership referendum to be held in France, and “euroskeptic” parties across the continent have rallied to the Brexit cause.

And some see Britain’s possible parting from the EU as an opportunity to be exploited.

L’Express, a French weekly magazine, wrote earlier this month that the prospect of a Brexit “is giving the financial sector in Paris hope of gaining in importance compared to London” and becoming Europe’s prime location for banking and high finance.

Meanwhile, Le Monde, the respected French daily, warned that the Brexit referendum was causing “panic amongst pro-Europeans” on their front page last week.

Le Parisien was more tart in its commentary. The French daily pointed out that the Brexit comes on the heels of the unsuccessful Scottish referendum in 2014, suggesting Britain is torn between embracing the future and pining away nostalgically for its more glorious past.

“Great Britain is questioning its true identity,” it said.

Meanwhile, some expatriate Brits, true to type, are facing the referendum with their famously characteristic “stiff upper lip.”

Daniel Sanderson, 32, an English teacher from Oxford, said he wasn’t too worried about the outcome either way. He has a permanent contract with the international school where he teaches and plans to stay in Berlin for the next few years because his girlfriend is German.

“Some of my colleagues are from non-EU countries like Australia, so I’m confident my school would sponsor my work visa if it came to that,” Mr. Sanderson said.

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