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Brexit kills a small town’s tiny tourism business

Summary:
NOT MUCH happens in Gadheim, a Bavarian hamlet of 89 souls. A handful of part-time farmers cultivate wheat, barley and rapeseed. A hotel trains apprentices in gardening and carpentry. Birds tweet, cars whoosh by. The landscape undulates, mildly.But Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has disturbed the rustic peace. Whenever the club’s composition changes, the French National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (IGN) calculates its new geographical centre. Over the years eastward enlargements have tugged the point from France to Belgium and then southern Germany; since 2013, when Croatia joined, it has sat in Westerngrund, a town in north-west Bavaria. But in April 2017 the IGN judged that Brexit would shift the EU’s centre 70km farther east, to Gadheim.Get our

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NOT MUCH happens in Gadheim, a Bavarian hamlet of 89 souls. A handful of part-time farmers cultivate wheat, barley and rapeseed. A hotel trains apprentices in gardening and carpentry. Birds tweet, cars whoosh by. The landscape undulates, mildly.

But Britain’s impending departure from the European Union has disturbed the rustic peace. Whenever the club’s composition changes, the French National Institute of Geographic and Forest Information (IGN) calculates its new geographical centre. Over the years eastward enlargements have tugged the point from France to Belgium and then southern Germany; since 2013, when Croatia joined, it has sat in Westerngrund, a town in north-west Bavaria. But in April 2017 the IGN judged that Brexit would shift the EU’s centre 70km farther east, to Gadheim.

A baker from a neighbouring village broke the news to Karin Kessler, a Gadheim farmer upon whose 33 hectares (82 acres) Europe’s centre will now sit. At first she thought it was an April fool. But then her son confirmed the finding, the world’s media descended (although some unaccountably confused the village with Gädheim, 45km away), and the locals began to plan. Gunila Weidner, a lawyer, cut an amusing spoof video promising ample space and low traffic for London bankers obliged to relocate, and urging Scotland not to think of seceding from Britain and rejoining the EU.

Brexit kills a small town’s tiny tourism business

After some deliberation, an “EU centre” began to emerge on Ms Kessler’s land. A stone marks the co-ordinates of the centre. Flagpoles await European and local standards. Green shoots poking through the soil promise visitors verdant surroundings. Early April saw delivery of a wooden bench and table, organised when Gadheim expected Britain to leave in March, and a red-and-white “arrow” that protrudes at an angle from the stone, metaphorically fired from Westerngrund to signify the changing of the guard.

Gadheimers share in Europe’s frustration at Britain’s inability to ratify a deal. Without a date for Brexit they cannot plan the centre’s opening ceremony (Markus Söder, Bavaria’s premier, has promised to attend) nor reap the modest tourist bounty some hope for. Yet as solid pro-Europeans, many feel ambivalent about celebrating the consequence of an event they deeply regret. Ms Kessler suspects Brexit might never happen, and would be delighted to be proven right. Jürgen Götz, the local mayor, hopes for a second referendum, leaving the EU centre a memorial to disaster averted. Ms Weidner agrees. “Gadheim doesn’t need a spot in the history books,” she says. “It needs a well-functioning EU.”

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