People should be allowed to keep their EU citizenship after Brexit, Plaid Cymru says, ahead of an opposition day debate in the House of Commons.
Plaid Cymru MPs are seeking to force the UK Government to ensure that Welsh, Scottish, English and Northern Irish citizens will be allowed to keep their European identity and citizenship after the UK leaves the EU, either by protecting existing agreements or the development of a new ‘Associate European Citizenship’ model.
Many thousands have signed a petition supporting our campaign which is backed by other parties and numerous campaign groups.
European citizenship gives holders the right to travel, live, study and work anywhere in the EU and a wide range of other rights under EU law regarding health, education, work and social security.
Plaid Cymru has sent a letter to the Prime Minister, signed by 19 individuals and organisations including political leaders, Open Britain and Best for Britain, calling on the Prime Minister to commit to include in her negotiating objectives with the EU a right for UK citizens to retain their European Citizenship following any UK exit from the European Union.
Plaid Cymru’s campaign has secured the support of campaign groups, Open Britain, Best for Britain, the New European newspaper and many others (listed below). It has the support of European law expert, Prof. Volker Roeben and prominent lawyer, Jolyon Maugham QC, who is leading an attempt to place before the Court of Justice of the European Union the question whether the EU citizenship of UK citizens survives the departure of the UK from the EU.
The European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt has also backed the idea, tweeting: “EU citizenship does not replace our national citizenship, it is additional to it. This campaign deserves the support of all those who agree with Churchill's vision of a “common citizenship” which would unite Europe together.”
The shared assumption of the European Union and the UK government is that the UK’s exit from the European Union will mean Welsh, English, Scottish and Northern Irish citizens automatically forfeit their EU citizenship. Legal experts argue however, that it would be illegal under both European law and international law, for citizens to be stripped of their EU citizenship.
Commenting, Plaid Cymru’s Brexit spokesperson, Hywel Williams MP said:
“While leaving the European Union will have a profound impact on the economies of the UK and the rest of the EU, it will also have significant consequences for each of us as individuals. We face having our European citizenship stripped - our hard-won European rights and, fundamentally, our right to call ourselves European, snatched from us.
“Our rights as European citizens allow us to live, work and study across the EU and associated countries. They give our children the opportunity to expand their potential and prospects in life, and give us additional rights in terms of healthcare, education, work and social security.
“Leaving the European Union need not necessitate stripping our own citizens of their European citizenship. The UK allowed Irish citizens to keep their UK citizenship after independence – the UK can seek to secure the same deal in its exit from the EU.
“Our European citizenship is intrinsic to our European identity. I am European – a Welsh European, and no government, no state and no Brexiteer should be allowed to take that away from me or anyone else.
“The Prime Minister needs to make continued EU citizenship a part of her negotiating position, so that all of us and all of our children can continue to benefit from the invaluable opportunities, rights, protections and benefits that our European citizenship offers us. I sincerely hope that Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour colleagues join with Plaid Cymru today to send a strong message to Theresa May’s government.”
Jolyon Maugham QC, who is taking the issue to the ECJ, added:
“Talk is cheap. But the time is now for the Prime Minister to back her rhetoric about uniting the country with concrete action. For many on the Remain side EU citizenship expresses a core part of our identity and gives us rights we value hugely. There are a number of ways to deliver the continuing benefits of EU citizenship to those who want it. The PM could, in negotiations, ask for those rights to be preserved. This would deliver great benefit to those who value those rights at no cost to those who do not.”