A case is being heard at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in November about whether Britons wrongly lost certain EU citizenship rights, in particular EU election voting rights in France, due to Brexit.
Campaigner Alice Bouilliez, a retired British civil servant from the Gers, said she is delighted after getting a "second bite at the cherry" in her battle to win back lost rights.
She initially based her case mostly on her lost local election voting rights, but was turned down by a court in Auch, Gers, and then last year on appeal to the ECJ. However, the court in Auch has asked the ECJ to consider the issue of Mrs Bouilliez' loss of her EU voting rights, thus reopening the case.
Last year the ECJ said Mrs Bouilliez had lost her local vote rights and also ruled that Britons who do not have another EU nationality have lost their EU citizenship rights, regardless of whether they moved abroad in the EU before Brexit. However, it did not consider EU election voting rights in particular.
New case fights for Britons voting rights in France
The hearing on November 16 will look specifically at the EU elections issue, but will also be a chance for Mrs Bouillez's lawyers to explain in person the impact on Britons in the EU of lost EU citizenship rights, such as this. Only French and EU citizens can vote in local and EU elections in France.
Mrs Bouilliez and her legal team, including Julien Fouchet from Cornille-Fouchet-Manetti in Bordeaux and Paris, known for his pro bono cases for Britons affected by Brexit, say they hope that the court will look more favourably on their arguments this time.
Photo: Alice Bouilliez and lawyer Julien Fouchet on a previous trip to court; Credit: Julien Fouchet
‘It is wrong to take away a right one has enjoyed for decades’
It will also be the first time Mr Fouchet and colleagues will be allowed to speak directly to the court instead of submitting written documents.
Their argument revolves around the idea that EU citizenship rights had been acquired by Britons and therefore should not be automatically lost due to Brexit, as well as the negative impacts on people's lives.
Mrs Bouilliez said: “It’s very wrong to take away a right one has enjoyed for decades, and that I’ve used. The wind has changed now, and people have realised the stupidity of it all.”
Mr Fouchet said he hopes it will at least win back EU voting for Mrs Bouilliez and other Britons who were living in France before Brexit.
He doubts the court will go as far as to reconsider the overall concept of acquired EU citizenship rights, but a positive decision might have “political” effects, especially if the European Parliament decided to legislate based on it, he said.
He believes that there are several issues that strengthen the case, including the fact that post-Brexit many Britons in the EU ended up with no right to vote in any election anywhere, due to the UK's 15-year limit on voting from overseas (this is now in the process of being reversed).
He said there is also a relevant legal precedent, which is that non-EU citizens in Gibraltar were previously allowed to vote in EU elections there due to their established private and family lives in the territory.
October 27 Article edited to clarify that this hearing focuses on EU election rights in particular