Brits should not lose EU citizenship rights after Brexit, leaked European Parliament plan says

The resolution stating the Parliament's position on Brexit is likely to be passed by MEPs

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 29 March 2017 15:26 BST
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Pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in central London.
Pro-EU protesters taking part in a March for Europe rally against Brexit in central London. (PA Wire/PA Images)

The European Union should look to make sure British people keep the individual rights and advantages of EU citizenship after Brexit, the European Parliament is set to agree.

A leaked draft resolution to be put to the Parliament by its chief negotiator following the triggering of Article 50 will call on the EU-27 to preserve freedom of movement and other such rights “within the limits of Union primary law” once Britain leaves.

The Independent reported proposals last year to give British citizens “associate citizenship” of the EU, an idea since personally championed by the Parliament’s negotiations lead Guy Verhofstadt.

Mr Verhofstadt is understood to have fought to include the plans to preserve Brits’ EU citizenship rights in the wide-ranging resolution, which is expected to be passed by a vote of all MEPs. The resolution lays out the Parliament’s view on Brexit negotiations at this stage.

Point 27 of the draft resolution says many citizens of the United Kingdom have “expressed strong opposition to losing the rights they currently enjoy” and says the EU-27 should “examine how to mitigate this”.

The text of the resolution says the Parliament “takes note that many citizens in the United Kingdom have expressed strong opposition to losing the rights they currently enjoy pursuant to Article 20 TFEU; proposes that the EU-27 examine how to mitigate this within the limits of Union primary law whilst fully respecting the principles of reciprocity, equity, symmetry and non-discrimination”.

“Article 20 TFEU” refers to the provisions protecting EU citizens in the Treaty on the European Union – the current version of which is commonly known as the Lisbon Treaty.

The main provisions protected under the treaty are the right to free movement, the right to vote in the European Parliament and local elections in member states, and the right to consular assistance from other EU countries. All these advantages are currently enjoyed by British citizens but could be lost after Brexit.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called the plans "a boost for the millions of British citizens who don't want to see their European identity robbed from them by a hard Brexit". He said the Prime minister had "chosen the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit" and accused Labour of waving a "white flag". Labour has set out six conditions it says Brexit must adhere to for it to vote for it, while the Lib Dems are calling for a second referendum on the final deal.

Proposals for “associate EU citizenship” began life as an amendment to a report by Luxembourgish liberal MEP Charles Goerens. He suggested the idea as a long-term reform to the EU’s structures.

That idea would potentially give Brits who live and work across borders a workaround to the disruption caused by the Leave vote – and young people looking to flee the UK more choice of where to move to.

Guy Verhofstadt is a liberal MEP who is the European Parliament's chief negotiator
Guy Verhofstadt is a liberal MEP who is the European Parliament's chief negotiator (Getty)

That amendment was later withdrawn after Mr Verhofstadt said he would fast-track it to his negotiating mandate. The proposal included in the resolution is less specific than the idea proposed by Mr Goerens, though it does not rule out such an arrangement. The chances of such an arrangement are thought to be remote because of potentially strong opposition to it from the European Commission and Council – the other two pillars of the EU.

The clause’s inclusion in the draft resolution is significant, however, because it is likely to represent the first time the European Parliament’s plenary of all MEPs votes on a resolution with it in. The European Parliament's main role in negotiations will to vote on whether to veto any final deal.

The leaked draft resolution also notably says that any deal given during the Article 50 negotiations should be “limited in scope” and can only run for three years. It also rules out a special deal for the City of London and says the UK must not use its military or security muscle to “trade off” for an advantageous trading partnership.

Theresa May confirmed to the House of Commons today that she had triggered Article 50, starting the two-year countdown before the UK exits the EU. She spoke of her “fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country”.

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