The European Parliament is to consider a plan that would allow British citizens to opt-in and keep their European Union citizenship – and its associated benefits – once the UK leaves the EU.
The proposal, which has been put before a parliamentary committee as an amendment, would grant the citizens of former member states the voluntary right to retain “associate citizenship” of the EU, such as after Brexit.
Associate citizens would be allowed to keep free movement across the EU as full citizens currently enjoy and would be allowed to vote in European Parliament elections, meaning they were still represented in Brussels.
The proposal could potentially give Brits who live and work across borders a workaround to the disruption caused by the Leave vote – and young people looking to flee an increasingly insular UK greater choice over where to move to.
Amendment 882 was proposed by Charles Goerens, a liberal MEP from Luxembourg. It will be considered by the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is drawing up a report with recommendations on “Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union”.
Brexit campaigners in Britain reacted with anger to the idea, arguing that it would discriminate against Leave voters and that it was “an outrage”.
The amendment suggests the provision of “European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former Member State; offers these associate citizens the rights of freedom of movement and to reside on its territory as well as being represented in the Parliament through a vote in the European elections on the European lists”.
Though the British Government has been coy on what it wants Britain’s post-Brexit future to look like, it is likely that British citizens will lose the automatic right to live and work in the EU after Brexit.
This is because Prime Minister Theresa May has made clear that she would like to restrict freedom of movement from EU countries to the UK, a policy that would likely be reciprocated by the EU for British citizens.
Jayne Adye, director of the Get Britain Out campaign described the proposal as divisive and said it was “totally unacceptable” for British people to retain the advantages of EU membership.
“This is an outrage. The EU is now attempting to divide the great British public at the exact moment we need unity. 17.4 million people voted to Leave the EU on 23 June and as a result the UK as a whole will get Brexit,” she said.
“Brexit means laws which impact the people of the UK will be created by accountable politicians in Westminster. It is totally unacceptable for certain citizens in the UK to subject themselves to laws which are created by politicians who are not accountable the British people as a whole. Discriminating against people based on their political views shows there are no depths the EU will not sink to.”
Britain voted to leave the EU at a referendum in June but has not yet begun the negotiation process. The Government is currently embroiled in a legal battle over whether it can trigger negotiations using Royal Prerogative, without consulting Parliament.