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BREXIT

Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit ‘train crash’ after May’s deal rejected

Lawmakers in the UK parliament overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday evening sparking frustration among EU leaders and anger from campaigners for the rights of Britons across Europe who were left furious by the prime minister's statement.

Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit 'train crash' after May's deal rejected
Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP.

A huge majority of UK parliamentarians rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal on Tuesday evening, leaving the government's plan for the UK's exit from the EU in tatters and the future of 1.2 million Brits in Europe shrouded in yet more doubt.

LIVE: Brits in EU demand to be spared from Brexit 'train crash' after May's deal rejected

More than two thirds of MPs voted against the Brexit deal, known as the Withdrawal Agreement. The numbers represented a crushing defeat for the PM: 202 voted in favour of the agreement but a staggering 432 MPs voted against.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn seized on the government's massive defeat, the largest for any government since the 1920s, to call for a vote of no-confidence.

MPs will now debate whether they have confidence in May's government on Wednesday January 16th.

Jean-Claude Juncker returned to Brussels early from meetings in Strasbourg, with May expected to seek a new round of meetings with the EU Commission and EU leaders to thrash out a new deal. 

But Juncker was not hopeful and urged the UK to “clarify its intentions”.

“The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK has increased with this evening's vote. While we do not want this to happen, we will continue our contingency work to help ensure EU is fully prepared,” Juncker said in a statement shortly after the vote. 

Donald Tusk, the European Council president, outlined the Brexit impasse and suggested Brexit should be called off for the good of both the EU and the UK.

Meanwhile the first thoughts of the president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani was with those Britons in the EU and Europeans in the UK.

“The Brexit vote is bad news. Our first thoughts are with the 3.6 million EU citizens living in the UK and Britons living elsewhere in the EU. They need assurances with regards to their future. We will always stand by their side,” Tajani said.

 

While campaigners for the rights of the 1.2 million Britons in Europe expected the result their anger at being left in limbo by negotiators for 934 days was heightened by May's statement after the defeat.

Kalba Meadows from British in Europe and Remain in France Together told The Local: “There was no great surprise in the result but the sheer hypocrisy in Theresa May's statement afterwards was just breathtaking when she said 'People, particularly EU citizens who have made their home here and UK citizens living in the EU, deserve clarity on these questions as soon as possible.' 

“We've been asking for clarity for over two years now, and neither she nor any of the DExEU Secretaries of State have been willing to meet us.

“I doubt there's one single EU citizen in the UK or UK citizen in the EU that didn't choke on those words. If she really wants to give us certainty, then she must push hard for the ring-fencing of our rights and do so now. It's the only just solution. Human lives must be taken out of this train crash”

The group British in Italy were similarly outraged.

“Following the largest defeat of any government in over 100 years, Theresa May said only that EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU deserve clarity as to their future and their rights.
 
“But she singularly failed to offer any plan as to how to achieve that. 
 
“Our citizens' rights that have already been negotiated and agreed between the UK and EU could so easily be ring-fenced (protected).
 
“Theresa May has offered nothing – not even an extension to the Article 50 period in order to discuss such a proposition with Europe.”
 
Some campaigners said May must now allow the British people to make a decision on what happen's next.
 
Brian Robinson from Brexpats Hear Our Voice told The Local: “The defeat of her personal Brexit deal was comprehensive, despite her frequent threats of the danger of a 'no deal' Brexit. The stark reality is that the clock is still ticking and parliament must urgently restore democracy and respond to the irresistible demands for a People's Vote.”
 
After the vote British in Europe reiterated its call for Theresa May to seek the “ringfencing” of the rights of EU nationals in the Uk and British nationals in the EU. 
 

Citizens' rights campaigners called on Theresa May, who name-checked UK nationals in Europe shortly after the heavy defeat in parliament, to return to Brussels and strike a deal for their rights.

But Theresa May may not be in a position to renegotiate any deal. First of all her government has to survive Wednesday's confidence vote.

It may be a long time yet before Britons in Europe get any clarity over their futures.

Member comments

  1. “Lawmakers in the UK parliament overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday evening sparking frustration among EU leaders” – That’s pretty awesome news!

  2. “The numbers represented a crushing defeat for the PM: 202 voted in favour of the agreement but a staggering 432 MPs voted against.

    …the government’s massive defeat, the largest for any government since the 1920s”

    Beautiful! The woman (May) is evil and it’s about time to revolt against her.

  3. Brexit is wrong. The UK must NOT leave the EU. The UK needs the EU and God help us, the EU definitely needs the UK.

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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