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Barrister seeks Britons refused for local elections

A French barrister known for fighting for Britons’ rights in the EU is seeking testimonies from Britons in France who had hoped to stand in the local mairie elections in March.

Julien Fouchet plans new pro bono legal action once the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) is ratified – after which the UK is expected to leave the EU within days and enter a transition period.

He wants to launch a challenge to the WA ratification in the European Court of Justice on grounds that Brexit with the deal has harmful effects on the lives of Britons with established lives in other EU countries like France compared to their status quo as EU citizens.

He believes an ideal way to show this will be to give evidence of being refused the chance to stand for election this year (though other evidence of harm due to Brexit, such as being refused a work contract, would also be applicable and he is also interested in hearing from businesses impacted, for example ones able to show that their turnover has dropped).

This is because it is a clear-cut result of Brexit that will take effect despite the transition period which is expected to put off many other changes to Britons' lives or those provisions of the WA that aim at protecting certain rights long-term for those living abroad in the EU before the transition period ends.

He acknowledges that it is highly unlikely that the court would at this stage annul the WA entirely, but he hopes for a partial annulment in which the court could rule that those Britons with well-established lives in the EU retain the same rights as now and the effects of the WA are set aside for them.

Ideally he said he hopes a ‘courageous’ judge could find a mechanism to reverse Brexit, perhaps pending changes improving the provisions on rights, but he thinks the chances are slim.

Those interested in helping would need to have written evidence such as a letter from their mairie, showing that they are not able to stand as candidates. Mr Fouchet of Cornille-Pouyanne-Fouchet barristers in Bordeaux and Paris hopes some of those providing testimonies could also become formal petitioners in the case.

Research by Dr Sue Collard of Sussex University previously found there were some 900 British councillors in France. Only those who also have French or another EU nationality will be able to stand this time as France considers - as does the European Commission and UK government - that Brexit results in automatic loss of EU citizenship.

Only French and EU citizens can vote in or stand in local elections in France.

The new case would be pro bono and Mr Fouchet plans to launch a crowdfunding exercise to help cover expenses.

He said that should he win for a group of Britons, the judgement should have knock-on effects for all Britons with well-established lives in countries like France once EU states take note of it. However if necessary Britons could take action in French courts on the basis of it in situations where their rights are affected by Brexit.

Testimonies may be sent to Connexion at news@connexion mentioning “Fouchet” in the subject line; we will forward them.

Mr Fouchet is still waiting for decisions on previous cases, including an ECJ bid for Italy resident Harry Shindler and five Britons in France, to retain the EU citizenship of Britons with well-established lives in EU states.

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