The British are leaving Germany. British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced his intention to remove the last British troops, after 65 years on German soil, by 2020—15 years earlier than expected. The decision comes amidst the U.K. government’s struggle to tackle its budget deficit and restructure its army, which has maintained a presence in Germany since the Second World War. An estimated 20,000 soldiers and 23,000 dependants and British civilians currently work at 12 bases in North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony, many of them living as part of the local communities, and married to Germans.
The early withdrawal could be a blow to the German economy, which draws in an estimated $1.8 billion from the British presence each year. The town of Bergen is preparing for what Mayor Rainer Prokop calls a devastating situation. Prokop estimated the population of 16,000 would drop by a third once the British troops left, and between 20 and 40 per cent of local business could go under. “This is the most severe upheaval for us since the Second World War,” Prokop told the German news website The Local.