Thoughts on Brexit

British Passport and DaueraufenthaltskarteI have to admit, that I didn’t follow the news about the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union too much at first.  At least, not what the Remain and Leave camps where going on about.  I was more interested in the legal attempt to open up the vote to British citizens who had left the country more than 15 years ago and still lived in the EU.  Unfortunately, that attempt was not successful and so I, like many others, did not have a vote to cast in the referendum last week.

Living out of the country for more than 15 years may appear to mean a “weakening of ties with the United Kingdom”, but it doesn’t stop us being directly affected by the outcome of the vote, just as the citizens of other EU countries living in the UK are.  And yet they, too, did not get to have their say.  However those living for, say, 14 years in Australia did have the right to take part, although they can hardly be so affected by the EU relationship as someone living there.

Although that said, it appears that a large number of British voters in Germany had trouble getting their postal vote anyway.

Anyway, a couple of weeks before the referendum I started getting asked for my opinion.  I started reading what the two sides were saying around this time, but my opinion was pretty well made up.  Anything other than a vote for “Remain” would create problems for myself and others living outside the country.

I could come up with all sorts of examples, such as why I can work so easily in Germany: I don’t require a work permit.  Or why the UK can trade so easily with EU countries at the moment: there are all sorts of agreements in place to make it easier to sell cross-border, such as the reverse charge VAT system.  I could also name some pretty mundane things, such as being able to go on holiday without restrictions on currency, or having to worry about emergency health care, or not having to worry about roaming charges in the future.

Sure, you can name countries like Switzerland and Norway that enjoy good relations with the EU, but there are always limits.  Try taking a smartphone into Switzerland and you’ll soon discover whether your provider considers your data usage to be within the EU!  And there are some annoying EU regulations as well that I sometimes have to deal with, but usually they are still less annoying that the bilateral rules that they replaced.

So, although I could not vote, I made no secret of the fact that I would want the UK to remain in the EU. [Read more…]

Voting on the future of Stuttgart’s station

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof - ©iStockphoto.com/AndreasWeber

After over a year of protests, the residents of the state of Baden-Württemberg will be voting tomorrow in a referendum on the future of the main station in Stuttgart.

The project, called “Stuttgart 21”, plans to demolish part of the station and take the railway lines underground.  The so-called “Kopfbahnhof”, a station where the tracks end and trains go in and out of, would then become a “Durchgangsbahnhof”, where tracks and trains run through from one side to the other, resulting in a number of changes to the rail network in the area.

A year ago, the politicians were saying that the project had been decided on in a long planning process, and that nothing could be changed.  Then there was a conciliation process (“Schlichtung”) where alternatives where looked at, and apart from the railway being required to prove that the new station would really bring a benefit to the network, not much changed.

However after the local elections in March of this year, the political situation in Baden-Württemberg changed considerably, when the CDU/FDP coalition, who had been in favour of the project lost such a large share of the vote, that a new Green/SPD coalition was formed to take control of the local parliament. [Read more…]

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