The Oxford professor hoping to save Britons’ EU rights

An Oxford professor who lives in France is due to receive a reply this month about his legal case which argued for all Britons born before Brexit, wherever they live, to maintain EU citizenship.

26 June 2020
By Connexion Journalist

EU citizenship

The case led by physics professor Joshua Silver with six others was lodged with the General Court of the EU in April, and the Council of the EU has until July 15 to reply. Prof Silver, who lives in the Hérault, said: “It started after the referendum when I consulted lawyers as to whether anyone had legal power to remove my EU rights. They all said no.”

Their lead lawyer, EU law specialist Alexandra von Western­hagen, said: “We have made our case as watertight as possible and have very good grounds.” They argue there is nothing in the EU treaties that states conditions for losing EU citizenship. “When you look at the historical interpretation of why we have this citizenship, it’s clear the EU fathers wanted to give the people of Europe a common bond, so there was no more conflict. EU citizenship is therefore detached from any country and is between the people,” she said.

Read more: Brexit residency card website to open in July

Dr Westernhagen said Euro­pean court case law backs this up. In a case over removing German citizenship of a criminal, the ECJ said if it meant people losing EU citizenship, you can only do it if it is proportionate, considering the consequences. “En masse deprivation of 65million people who haven’t done anything is clearly disproportionate under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

Hoping for a hearing

Once the response from the EU is received, the team will have a month to respond. They hope for a hearing in the General Court towards the end of this year. If they are unsuccessful, they will appeal to the ECJ. They want the Withdrawal Agreement to be redrawn to remove sections treating Britons as different from EU citizens, while maintaining necessary protections such as pension uprating for Britons in the EU. They suggest maintaining citizenship could be subject to individual choice, and perhaps payment of an annual fee, as Britons previously contributed to the EU in taxes for their privileges.

Read more: Q&A: your Brexit card deal queries

French barrister Julien Fou­chet is in a similar battle on behalf of Britons living in the EU. The Council has said their loss of rights comes solely from the UK’s triggering of Article 50 so there are no grounds to challenge the WA deal. He was set to respond by the end of June.

Find more Brexit questions and answers in our helpguide, Brexit and Britons in France 2020

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