CITIZENSHIP FOR BRITISH SUBJECTS LIVING IN THE EUROPEAN UNION v.6
“Brexit equals the worst case of self-harm.” (John Major, past UK Prime Minister)
“The UK is quintessentially European” (B Johnson, UK Prime Minister, 2020)
There are some 1.4 million British subjects living in the European Union (EU/UE). According to British government sources, 80% of these are working, studying, or researching, while the remaining 20% are living and retired in the EU.
These citizens of the United Kingdom, referred to hereafter as Expatriates, or Expats, (Latin: Ex Patria) have lost their right to vote, in EU parliamentary & local elections, due to the enforcement of British exit (Brexit) from the EU, with effect 1 Jan 2020 (now finalised 1 Jan 2021). In addition, those Expats who have lived in the EU for more than 15 years have also lost the right to vote in all UK elections, despite three consecutive Manifesto promises, by the currently ruling UK Conservative Party. Indeed, a Private Member’s Bill, proposing the rescinding of this loss of rights, was recently and deliberately “talked out” of the British Parliament, by a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP).
Thus, with no vote now in the EU and no vote in their home country, a substantial number of the EU based British Expats, are effectively “stateless”, or without the right to be democratically represented.
Yet the Citizenship of the EU/UE was determined, in 1992, by the Maastricht Treaty and gave “additional legal status, [to be] enjoyed by EVERY person, (an “Individual Right”) holding nationality of a Member State AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME”; and subsequently to other countries that joined.
Therefore it may be argued that British Expats, living and working in the EU, should have the right to be recognised as EU Citizens, with all rights and privileges, that may entail, including Citizenship.
In nearly all cases, British passport holders made a conscious and deliberate decision, for a variety of reasons, to move to and settle in one of the (now) 27 countries that make up the EU.
A recent legal test case has been submitted to the French Courts, by a Maitre Julien Fouchet, arguing that his client, Mme Alice Bouilliez, a British lady living in France for more than 15 years, had the right to and expectation of EU Citizenship.
This application was recently considered by the French Courts. This case has been strengthened by addition of a second case (Mme Strawson). This approval has now been further submitted to the Courts of Justice for the European Union (CJUE), with the intention to gain approval across the EU/UE Countries, (less the UK - which has transited from the EU in 2021).
This test case (see above) refers to someone fully resident in the EU, (as it happens, for more than 15 years). It should not be possible or acceptable to remove that person’s rights to Citizenship, for political reasons; yet this is precisely and effectively what the UK has done.
There are several issues, which pertain to this important matter:
- Duty of Care. Every civilised nation, or group of nations, has a duty of care, for the citizens living within its borders.
- Unintended consequences. Even in the most extreme political jousting, it cannot be considered that some 1.4 million people are effectively disenfranchised from any vote for an elected representative. Currently the British citizens in the EU have been cut off from voting in local EU elections and (after 15 years) from voting in the UK.
- Collateral Damage. It must be considered that those British citizens living in the EU are NOT part & parcel of the current move by the UK, to withdraw from the EU (Brexit). Those living and working in the EU have, under the Maastricht treaty, to be considered as citizens of the EU. As such, UK citizens based in the EU can be considered as “collateral damage”.
- This is also an issue. In implementing the ‘accidental removal’ of voting rights, it can be argued that the British government did not appreciate the extent of the damage done to the democratic rights of 1.4 million British passport-holders. The impact was out of proportion and unreasonable. Even worse, it might be argued that the UK government, in its pursuit of Brexit, did not care for the well-being of its own subjects.
- It is calculated some 97% of EU expats voted against Brexit and (as the President Elect of the USA recently said, in his Thanksgiving speech) “Voting is the noblest form of non-violent protest”; and of course the Right to Vote is the ‘bedrock of Democracy”. Currently, despite three separate Tory Party Manifestos, a British passport holder, (often paying some taxes in the UK), who has resided outside the UK, for more than 15 years, is not entitled to vote; even though members of the British Commonwealth (e.g. Australia, Canada etc) were permitted to vote in the 2016 UK Referendum.
- The implementation of Brexit, is a major subject in its own right, but there are several anomalies, which have occurred; some still under negotiation, at time of going to press:
- British expats are now required to obtain & pay for visas, to travel within the EU. If they travel to friends and families in the UK, they then must prove a right to re-enter an EU country, of residence or business; especially if they are married to an EU citizen.
- Expats must extend their rights to live and work in the EU, even if they have done so for years. Professional qualifications may no longer be recognised (architects, scientists, medical personnel, etc).This does in certain cases involve extra costs (e.g. translation & legal fees) (another example of unintended consequences)
- Under UK law, British women gained various rights (1918), which have now been disrupted. Maitre Fouchet’s client now has less rights than her Suffragette ancestors in 1918 !
- Following Brexit, it is now impossible to insure a British car, without a permanent address in the UK; the same financial issues apply to many UK banks, where the account holder is living fulltime in the EU
- UK spouses cannot now take their partners to the UK, without adequate financial status, or a visa
- Health Care. UK citizens have paid taxes in both the UK and their EU country of domicile and should be entitled to health care, without being financially penalised. (This issue is ongoing)
- Human Rights. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992-3 granted citizenship to any person, from the countries that made up the EU, both then and since, as a basic human right. This is central to democracy and the Rights of Man.
“A vow creates a direction and becomes Paramount”: ( Mahatma Gandhi )
A non-inclusive list of rights would include the right to dignity, fairness, respect and equality, but also to eat, breathe, procreate and vote, without fear of prosecution, or threat to life and living. It should go without saying that these rights must apply to both the rich and poor. Conversely it is wrong that a small group of privileged people should be able to oppress a population, forcing them to obey laws and conditions, which cause stress and hardship, in peacetime. Specifically, in the case of Brexit, in which many British subjects were not allowed to vote, a balance of 52% : 48% on an “advisory vote” should not be a Mandate for such oppression and the removal of Human Rights, from British Subjects; or indeed anyone else.
- Legal Access. Those living in the European Union as citizens, have the inalienable right to refer to, or come before the CJUE. This right comes from the Maastricht Treaty, which refers amongst its Objectives to:
“the introduction of a citizenship of the Union” common to the nationals of the Member States
- In fact, (see above), the two test cases, having been passed by the French Courts, are being brought forward to the CJUE. This is not in itself a political issue, but a matter of simple Law. Basic Human Rights should not be over-ridden by temporary populist whims and pressures, no matter how loudly they may be expressed.
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms, that belong to EVERY person, in the world, from birth until death. They can never be taken away, although sometimes restricted for example if someone breaks the law, or in the interests of national security. The UK passed the Human Rights Act in 1998.
- The European Union (EU/UE). The EU/UE has a proud record, on equality, standards and fairness. This marches side by side with the purpose of ensuring “democratic functioning”. Indeed the EU/UE currently has a major project, en route, regarding Citizenship, which is due to be considered by the CJUE, (vide ECIT Conference of 1-2 Dec 2020).
In the field of Justice & Home Affairs, the Council of Ministers is exhorted by the Maastricht Treaty, “to inform and consult”.
Given the wide ranging and potentially serious nature of this matter, affecting in total some 1.4 million British Expats, in the EU, it is felt that it should be brought, not only to the attention of the EU Courts, but also to senior representatives of the EU administration and thence, perhaps, to the EU Parliament and Council.
With the advent of the UK Brexit, some 1.4 million British Expats have lost their right to vote, in EU Parliamentary & local elections; and for many, who have lived in Europe for 15 years or over, they cannot vote in UK Elections either. This is utterly undemocratic and impinges heavily upon their Human Rights, to have access to justice, fairness, respect and equality. These cannot be said to exist, without access to democratic representation, not least in the country of domicile.
The Maastricht Treaty of 1992-3 is quite clear on the subject of ALL people living in the countries comprising the EU; and this has effectively and until now included British expats, living and working AND paying taxes, in the EU. Without the ability to vote anywhere, for a substantial proportion of these residents & their families, they are disenfranchised and deprived of democratic representation. They can therefore be said to be deprived of a basic Human Right.
Two recent test cases, brought by Maitre Julien Fouchet, have been placed successfully before the French Courts, which have considered and passed the cases, for further consideration, to the CJUE.
It is felt that this is a serious case, with major ramifications for all British expats in the EU and, accordingly, this Paper is part of an effort to bring the matter to the attention of senior representatives of the EU; with a view to gaining citizenship recognition, for those British passport holders resident in and contributing to the 27 countries, that comprise the EU/UE.
Given the size of this British Community and the intention shown, in moving to live, work (80%), study and research, in the EU/UE, it is evidently to the benefit of said EU/UE, to shelter, aid and cherish, such a community.
The authors of this Paper believe that severe damage has been done to the democratic rights of the 1.4 million British passport holders, living and working in the EU, that they have lost the right to vote, both in the EU and for many of them, in the UK; and consequently their basic Human Rights have also been lost, or at very least severely infringed.
Further this Paper recommends that the above British residents be included in the EU Citizenship scheme and their Freedom of Movement and other rights be restored, alongside their other European compatriots.
Terence Phayre Knott MC
83440 Montauroux, France
2 Jan 2021