Britons' EU citizenship case 'not urgent'

The Conseil d'Etat said Britons will be protected by the French ordonnance

A legal case seeking to protect the EU rights of British people in the case of a no-deal Brexit is not urgent because the French no-deal laws guarantee a year of legal residency, a top French court has ruled.

French barrister Julien Fouchet had applied to administrative court the Conseil d’Etat for a fast-tracked ruling on behalf of ten Britons living in France, challenging the legality of the French no-deal ordonnance which was published in February.

He said it assumed Britons to have become non-EU citizens after Brexit, which Mr Fouchet disagrees with. 

Mr Fouchet had hoped the Conseil would refer the matter urgently for clarification from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), so it could be settled before the original Brexit day of March 29.

However the court has replied saying that it does not find any urgency due to rules in the French government’s ordonnance, clarified in a decree last week, that say British people could live legally in France for a year with no residency documents after a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Fouchet is now appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, on behalf of the same Britons, in view of the fact he has exhausted national French appeal avenues concerning the ordonnance.

He has also launched similar legal action on the basis of the publication of the decree, to gain another chance and extra time.

He said: “The Conseil said British people’s rights continue for a year, but they’ve not grasped the fact that if we don’t make a challenge now Britons’ EU citizenship disappears.”

He added the court had also failed to consider that the ordonnance says British people’s rights in France depend on reciprocity with regard to French people’s rights in the UK.

He said the thinks the Conseil was ill at ease about his case. He claims that, as its paper sent to him outlining the decision was dated in mid-March, two and a half weeks before he received it, it had wanted to “hide it” before Brexit day.

Meanwhile, as we reported in April’s edition of The Connexion newspaper, Mr Fouchet’s case to the European courts on behalf of Britons including war veteran Harry Shindler who were excluded from the 2016 referendum vote, had a second setback after the European Court of Justice rejected it on March 19 (it was previously rejected by a lower court, the EU’s General Court).

The ECJ said among other matters that even if it ruled the Brexit negotiations illegal due to the exclusion of British expatriates, this would not stop the UK leaving with no deal.

Mr Fouchet said he has now lodged a further challenge based on the court’s failure to address several of his points, including the fact that the Britons will have no way of appealing against their loss of EU citizenship if there is a no-deal Brexit. They also failed to consider a point about prejudice to Britons who have been refused the right to stand in the coming EU election or to be registered as voters to take part in it.

Mr Fouchet added that the ECJ decision has still not been published, whereas usually it is published on the day of the decision. “They’re hiding it; it’s the first time I’ve seen that happen,” he said.

He said he has also applied to the French tribunal d’instance in Pertuis, Vaucluse, on behalf of a British resident whose mayor refused to let him register to vote.

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