EU Negotiators Want to Offer Brits the Chance to Keep Their EU Citizenship
Depending on how negotiations go, you might be able to remain an EU Citizen for an annual fee.
Earlier this year a proposal was floated that would allow individual British citizens to pay a fee in order to keep their European citizenship and all of its many benefits. The proposal was being considered as a long-term plan, but it's been fast-tracked by chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who will now include it in his mandate for negotiations.
The plan could potentially allow individual Brits the opportunity to work across borders, move freely across the continent and vote in European Parliament elections.
Verhofstadt said, "It is an important amendment that has captured the imagination and hopes of many of the 48 percent of Brits that have voted to remain in the EU." It's certainly been enthusing pro-European politicians back home. Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder said: "The option of being able to retain EU citizenship offers a glimmer of hope for the millions of British people devastated by the referendum result."
Verhofstadt said in November: "I like the idea that people who are European citizens, and saying they want to keep it, have the possibility of doing so. As a principle, I like it." However, he hasn't yet had any thoughts on how it would actually function, and there's certainly no precedent for being a citizen of a country that isn't in the EU while also being a citizen of the EU. It also creates a lack of incentive for other countries to remain in the EU – because why stay in if your citizens can have the advantages of European citizenship?
Unsurprisingly, Brexiteers aren't enthused by the idea. Jayne Adye, director of the Get Britain Out campaign, said: "The EU is now attempting to divide the great British public at the exact moment we need unity. 17.4 million people voted to Leave the EU on the 23rd of June, and as a result the UK as a whole will get Brexit."
Some kind of associate membership may be inevitable, however, because of a landmark European Court of Justice case in 2010 that ruled that government decisions resulting in the loss of a person's EU citizenship must be "proportional" in their impact. It's likely that, at some point, a Brit living abroad may end up bringing a case to the court, saying that Brexit has disproportionately impacted their lives. The ruling in such a case may have to allow for some individual membership.
Either way, at this early stage all we can say about the proposal is that is a good negotiating tactic – offering something so seemingly positive to the UK that the government would be accused of acting dogmatically if they were to turn it down.
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