Will Brexit negotiators guarantee our rights to a full English breakfast?

Frankfurt resident and British expat Garreth Brooke is concerned about maintaining his supply of baked beans and HP sauce after Brexit.

Will Brexit negotiators guarantee our rights to a full English breakfast?
A full English breakfast. Photo: Dèsirèe Tonus / Flickr Creative Commons.

If you’re a British expat living in Germany like me, you’ve undoubtedly found that conversation frequently turns to Brexit and what it means for Brits in Europe. One critical but, to my mind, under-discussed consideration is the potential implications for that most important meal of the day: breakfast.

The German national breakfast is wonderful but sometimes, if we’re totally honest, it is more like an investigation into how many different varieties of cheese, meat, conserves, eggs and – most importantly – bread rolls one can reasonably fit onto the table without said table collapsing.

For a while my wife and I had one of these giant German breakfasts every weekend morning, but as time passed a uniquely British type of sickness started to grow in my stomach. It was a strange mix of homesickness and patriotism, expressing itself in a desperate craving for the English breakfast, that glorious combination of hash browns, baked beans, sausages, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, buttered white toast and brown sauce that leaves you sedentary, satisfied and sweating profusely.

Assembling a satisfactory English breakfast is challenging enough in England, where great debates rage over whether eggs should be fried or scrambled. Is it smokey or unsmoked bacon? Should it be toast or fried bread? Should tomatoes be included? And, if so, should they be tinned? Then there is perhaps the greatest controversy of them all – black pudding. (For the record, the correct answers are: fried; I don’t care, just give me lots; toast; a maximum of two fresh ones are acceptable; tinned tomatoes can bugger off; OH MY YES).

Friendships are made and broken over such debates. I can respect but not condone the decision to forgo black pudding, but if you dare to say that you think poached eggs go well with an English breakfast, I will ask you to leave the house and never return. Seriously. No, Chris, I still haven’t forgiven you.

The challenge of assembling an English breakfast in Germany is even more fraught with complexities. Bacon is not a problem, for Germans love their pork products, but finding a British style sausage is a challenge. You may say this is not a bad thing, but for me an intrinsic part of the English breakfast experience is using brown sauce to mask the flavour of mechanically recovered factory droppings. It is also possible to buy poor-quality sausages in Germany, but sadly they’re just not the same, no matter how much brown sauce you use.

Thankfully tomatoes, eggs and mushrooms aren’t a problem. Ask a German for a hash brown, however, and they will probably recommend you visit an Amsterdam coffee shop. Luckily this is just a language barrier issue – just ask for Rösti!

Alas, such cultural equivalency does not extend to baked beans, which are at best viewed with suspicion and at worst openly mocked as an example of terrible British taste in food. That this is outrageous almost goes without saying, but I’m prepared to accept a little baked bean mockery if it means my German friends will at least try them: I’m like a baked bean John the Baptist. Soon the world will understand.

But perhaps the critical ingredient is the last one. No matter how good the ingredients are, an English breakfast isn’t an English breakfast if it isn’t covered in brown sauce, and brown sauce isn’t brown sauce unless it has got ‘HP’ on the bottle. I don’t know about you, but there’s something about that particular combination of tomatoes, molasses, dates and vinegar that stirs up strange feelings that I can’t quite explain.

Sourcing the sauce is a challenge: it’s possible, though expensive, to buy it in Germany. I don’t know about you, but personally I book an extra piece of hold luggage just for HP sauce on flights back from the UK. Brexit may complicate this, though perhaps not quite as you might expect, for it turns out that HP Sauce with its iconic Houses of Parliament logo is actually one of us: a British expat who has been based in the Netherlands since 2007.

Politics aside, I’ve watched with unabashed joy as my German wife has fallen in love with the English breakfast. She tells me it is not entirely dissimilar to the Bauernfrühstück (farmer’s breakfast), a hash-like meal built around fried potatoes, bacon and egg. But there are obvious differences – not least the brown sauce and the baked beans.

That she enjoys copious slatherings of brown sauce on her English breakfast gives me a good deal of joy. Words cannot describe the mixture of pride and love I experienced the first time I witnessed her carefully arranging her plate so that her sausages formed a baked bean dam, for it was then I knew that she understood.

Garreth Brooke is a British expat currently living and working in Frankfurt am Main, where he teaches and composes music for the piano. Find out more at


‘It’s their loss’: Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

The UK is missing out by barring highly skilled Italian graduates from accessing a new work visa, Italy's universities minister said on Wednesday.

'It's their loss': Italian universities left off UK special study visa list

Universities and Research Minister Cristina Messa said she was disappointed by the UK’s decision not to allow any graduates of Italian universities access to its ‘High Potential Individual’ work permit.

“They’re losing a big slice of good graduates, who would provide as many high skills…it’s their loss,” Messa said in an interview with news agency Ansa, adding that Italy would petition the UK government to alter its list to include Italian institutions.

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“It’s a system that Britain obviously as a sovereign state can choose to implement, but we as a government can ask (them) to revise the university rankings,” she said.

The High Potential Individual visa, which launches on May 30th, is designed to bring highly skilled workers from the world’s top universities to the UK in order to compensate for its Brexit-induced labour shortage.

Successful applicants do not require a job offer to be allowed into the country but can apply for one after arriving, meaning potential employers won’t have to pay sponsorship fees.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome.

Students sit on the steps of Roma Tre University in Rome. Photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP.

The visa is valid for two years for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and three years for PhD holders, with the possibility of moving into “other long-term employment routes” that will allow the individual to remain in the country long-term.

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Italy isn’t the only European country to have been snubbed by the list, which features a total of 37 global universities for the 2021 graduation year (the scheme is open to students who have graduated in the past five years, with a different list for each graduation year since 2016).

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EPFL Switzerland, Paris Sciences et Lettres, the University of Munich, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute are the sole European inclusions in the document, which mainly privileges US universities.

Produced by the UK’s Education Ministry, the list is reportedly based on three global rankings: Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings, and The Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Messa said she will request that the UK consider using ‘more up-to-date indicators’, without specifying which alternative system she had in mind.