MEP puts forward plan for EU citizenship for Britons

MEP Charles Goerens wants a new kind of EU citizenship for Britons who value being Europeans.

7 December 2016
By Connexion journalist

MEP Charles Goerens wants a new kind of EU citizenship for Britons who value being Europeans.
Britons who wish to remain EU citizens after Brexit could opt to have a form of ‘associate citizenship’ enabling them to retain their free movement rights, an MEP from Luxembourg is proposing.
Charles Goerens, who is part of a Liberals and Democrats group in the European Parlia­ment, wants the status for those who ‘wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former member state’.
The citizenship would require an annual fee. Mr Goerens said in a statement: “48% of British voters wished to remain European citizens with all the advantages that this brings. The EU should facilitate associate voluntary EU citizenship for those who, against their will, are being stripped of their European identity.
“This could provide a practical solution for UK citizens aggrieved by Brexit.”
He suggests such citizens would even retain an EU Parliament vote, for candidates on EU party lists, not national ones.
Mr Goerens put forward the idea as an amendment to a report on future EU reforms by Guy Verhofstadt who heads the Liberals and Democrats group (and is to
be the Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator).
It is expected to be discussed by a constitutional affairs committee on December 8 and Mr Goerens hopes it will be adopted and put forward to full Parliament in Febru­ary. The dates have been moved forward from November and December to give more time to raise awareness among MEPs and possibly to make final tweaks to wording.
Mr Goerens told Connexion: “The report concerns changes it may be important to make to the EU treaties. Guy Verhofstadt thinks that the best approach for the EU’s relationship with the UK is to create an ‘associate state’ status, with relations as close as possible. I thought why not also an ‘associate citizenship’ conferring rights to those British citizens who want it.”
He added: “In the Parliament I notice a lot of British colleagues want to keep their EU citizenship and can’t see any solution other than searching their family tree to see if they have an Irish grandmother or some other link with another EU state. Millions of British people are disappointed about the referendum result, who are convinced Europeans and don’t want to break with us, so I proposed this to give them hope.
“What’s unfortunate too is that nobody knows what’s going to happen. The UK is waiting to set things in motion. So I’ve decided to make a splash with this idea.
“And when I see the impact it’s had, I don’t think the idea is going to disappear any time soon.” Mr Goerens said that even if it is “unilateral” from the EU to the UK he believes it is in the EU’s interest “because we need the talents of people from the UK”.
He said Britain’s exit will require adjustments to the treaties in their current form so this change might be done at the same time. He added: “Some MEPs are enthusiastic, but I still have efforts to make. I have had a lot of support from the public. I must have had a 1,000 emails of support and more than 1,000 likes on Twitter.”
However, the plan has been criticised by the campaign group Get Britain Out. Director Jayne Adye called it “an outrage” and said it was an attempt to “divide the UK public at the exact moment we need unity”.
It was unacceptable for certain Britons to continue to “subject themselves to laws which are created by politicians who are not accountable to the British people as a whole,” she said adding: “It would be a ridiculous scenario – how could one prove whoever wants to register for such a thing voted Remain? It would be unworkable.”
Asked if it would be acceptable if it was freely available without proving how you voted, and if it could not arguably heal divides if it helps Remain voters feel better about Brexit, Ms Adye said she did not wish to comment further, but believed many people now regretted voting Remain.

What rights would this confer?
The idea is it would give freedom of movement to live and work in the EU as at present, as well as a vote in EU elections. That could have many knock-on effects, as various French administrative matters are simpler for EU citizens compared to étrangers.

What would it not include?
Precise rights conferred would depend on what is agreed. However it may not affect matters that are Britain’s responsibility as opposed to the EU’s (or EU states’).
It may not oblige the UK to pay for pensioners’ healthcare in EU countries (though compensating for loss of this may be part of the general UK/EU exit agreement).
However there would be the possibility of healthcare under the ‘Puma’ system on residence grounds (this system is based on payments). It would also probably not oblige the UK to pay ‘associate citizens’ UK benefits that are currently ‘expor­­table’ under EU rules, or to uprate UK state pensions (though these may be part of the exit deal).

What would you have to declare?
Specifics have to be agreed, but the amendment says it would be for those who “feel, and wish to be, part of the European project”. Mr Goerens said they should “meet conditions regarding fundamental European values such as solidarity, tolerance, respect for minorities and non-discrimination”.

Would this be for any British
people or just for British expats?
The plan is to offer it to any Britons who want it, but if it meets opposition, perhaps from certain British MEPs, a compromise might be to offer it to Britons living in other EU states. “What has a good chance of being accepted is that it should be offered to British people living outside the UK in the current EU. I think a critical mass of MEPs would support that,” Mr Goerens said.

Would associate citizens have an
EU passport to prove their status?
This would remain to be worked out.
The initial aim is for the Parliament
to acknowledge the basic principle.

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