Bye-bye Brexit: History haunts German woman leaving UK to avoid ‘chaos’

February 22, 2019

By Helena Williams

LONDON (Reuters) – Actor Sonja Morgenstern, a German national who has lived in London since 1996, packed up and moved back to Nuremberg this week in hopes of rediscovering the peace and certainty she lost when Britain voted for Brexit in 2016.

The 41-year-old, an active anti-Brexit campaigner who dresses up at pro-EU events, is one of 3.7 million EU citizens living in Britain, many of whom fear chaos when it leaves the European Union on March 29.

If Prime Minister Theresa May fails to reach a trade deal with the EU as a bridge to Britain’s biggest political change in four decades, many fear border backlogs and supermarket shortages in the aftermath.

“It feels like some major values that we all share in Europe have been undermined for whatever shady reasons,” she told Reuters, surrounded by boxes and bubblewrap.

“So to just, you know, blindly keep going in the direction of a cliff like lemmings, I don’t get it. All I know is I’m not going to be a winner out of this situation.”

Despite getting British citizenship earlier this year, Sonja says she feels an “impending doom” that Britain, once an open-minded place, has lost its way and that the government has no plan.

Britain has said that EU citizens and their families who have been living in the UK for at least five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for so-called settled status, giving them the right to remain and work in the country.

But Sonja said that by deciding to leave, she has regained a sense of power.

A single parent to 4-year-old Mio, her decision came while stacking tins of tomatoes and spaghetti in case of “no deal”.

“I started to prepare for Brexit by stockpiling some food” she said. “But then I thought, actually this is crazy! I might as well spend my energy and my money moving and being closer to family and not having that constant worry.”

The task brought echoes of family emergencies in the past – a period of drinking only powdered milk in Germany in the 1980s because of fears of contamination from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, or food shortages during World War Two described by her father and grandmother.

“Being German, we’ve grown up with a very keen sense of our history and the idea that these things shouldn’t repeat and certain things are just, you know when they feel sort of slightly worrying – when is the right time to leave?” she said, speaking in London-accented English.

“Something is brewing that I feel very uncomfortable with.”

(Writing and additional reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison)

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