Will I be able to keep my EU citizenship after Brexit? EU proposal to let Brits opt in explained

What are the details of the proposal?

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Friday 09 December 2016 16:48
Comments
Will you be able to remain an EU citizen after Brexit?

European Parliament chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has put forward a proposal for British nationals to keep “associate” EU citizenship after Brexit if they individually want to.

Mr Verhofstadt says he says he will be putting the idea on the table in EU negotiations and including it in his mandate. Such a proposal, if enacted would allow Brits to keep some of the benefits of European Union citizenship.

What are the details?

There aren’t really any, other than a few lines included in the original amendment by MEP Charles Goerens. That amendment suggested nationals of former EU member states could opt in, keep free movement rights and get a vote in the European Parliament elections.

Surely this is unworkable?

Not necessarily – dual nationality already exists. Other countries have also granted citizenship en masse to citizens of other countries before: Russia has offered passports to Russian-speaking residents of eastern Ukraine and Georgia, for instance.

So people could be subject to different rights?

Unlikely: this is about citizenship rather than jurisdiction or anything to do with courts. If as a UK citizen you go to Japan, you would be subject to Japanese laws but still retain the advantages of a UK citizen when in the UK.

Is this going to happen?

It seems doubtful. The EU would be unlikely to impose this plan without the consent of the British Government, and the Government would be unlikely to agree to it because it would politically enrage the eurosceptics that Theresa May must keep on side.

Additionally, the European Parliament is not the only part of the EU negotiating with the UK. The Council and the Commission are less likely to want to adopt the plan for a couple of reasons.

Above all, the idea may literally be too good to be true: if Brits can have their cake and eat it by leaving the bloc but keeping the advantages of EU membership, why wouldn’t others do so? For EU leaders in the Council wanting to stop the collapse of the EU it may not be something they would consider for this reason.

But when we reported the original amendment, it seemed unlikely that this idea would go further than that – and it is 2016, so anything could happen.

So what’s the point in this?

It certainly gives the EU negotiators an advantage in negotiations by putting something extremely popular on the table that the British Government is unlikely to agree to. It undermines the idea that Theresa May is speaking for the whole of the UK and acting in the “national interest” if she is throwing away the rights of large numbers of her citizens.

Similarly, the proposal also focuses minds on the advantages of EU membership, which have been completely absent from the referendum debate so far.

Guy Verhofstadt is also a liberal MEP and the Liberal Democrats in the UK will be able to back this wholeheartedly. That may or may not be deliberate.

Whatever the motivation and however unlikely it is to come to pass, this feels politically shrewd.

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