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French court advances case on Britons keeping EU citizenship

Regional court sends questions to EU's top court about whether Britons may retain European citizenship despite Brexit – ruling expected in 2021

A regional French court has now sent a request to the EU’s top court for a ruling on Britons’ EU citizenship rights.

Last month the court of Auch, in the Gers, accepted a request to send questions to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg about whether Brexit must automatically mean Britons lose EU citizenship.

The point has never explicitly been clarified by the ECJ, the top authority on EU law. Some legal experts believe that EU citizenship, with associated rights such as free movement and voting in local and EU elections, should not automatically be stripped when their country leaves the EU, especially where this causes ‘disproportionate’ disruption to people’s lives.

French barrister Julien Fouchet reports that, with no appeal against it having been lodged by the French state, the judgement has now become final and has been sent to the ECJ.

The proceedings will be formalised by the ECJ in the coming days and sent to all EU member states, he said.

The legal case by Mr Fouchet, of Cornille-Fouchet in Bordeaux and Paris, is on behalf of a British woman who has lived in France for 36 years but has not taken French citizenship because as a former British civil servant she swore an oath of allegiance to the Queen. She is unhappy over losing citizenship rights such as voting in French elections, especially as she can no longer vote in the UK due to the '15-year rule'.

Mr Fouchet said he will request the case be considered in an ‘accelerated procedure’, in which case it can be heard in two to three months.

Otherwise, he said, the normal procedure takes 12 months.

He said the case is likely to interest all the EU member states, which will require translations of paperwork. 

In a case such as this there is no question of the ECJ considering that the request is not acceptable, he said. However he said it is possible it could decide to reword certain of the questions or could decide that some are not useful with regard to British woman's situation.

In the meantime, Mr Fouchet said he has a similar case, set to be heard on Friday at the Court of Justice of Perpignan on behalf of a Scottish client, which will seek to ask slightly different questions. He expects a decision on Monday or Tuesday next week.

  • Mr Fouchet has a crowdfund page at this link, which collects money towards all his ongoing Brexit cases, including this one, which are undertaken on a pro bono basis.

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Top EU court to be asked to rule on Britons’ EU citizenship

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