Stuart Bonar on how associate membership of EU may work for all

PUBLISHED: 21:13 20 November 2016 | UPDATED: 11:06 30 November 2016

Passport control at Dublin Airport (2015)

Passport control at Dublin Airport (2015)

PA Wire/PA Images

Can Brits remain members of the EU without finding a route to a foreign passport? Stuart Bonar has an idea

Since the vote to leave the European Union, many friends have suddenly developed a keen interest in their Irish ancestry.

One has already claimed German citizenship. Another, Cypriot. Yet another has secured permanent residence in Belgium. Everywhere, people are finding ways to avoid being stranded here in Brexit Britain.

Some of us however are unable to contribute to the big, post-referendum spike in applications to become new Danes, Italians and Swedes. We lack a parent or grandparent helpfully born elsewhere in Europe.

I want to keep my right to live, work, travel, study, retire, even start a business elsewhere in the EU with the minimum of bureaucratic fuss and bother, but it is more than just that. I am a European. I feel it in my bones. I don’t want to be stripped of my European citizenship. I want to keep it.

I have a simple idea that would allow those who want to leave the EU to do so while allowing those of us who feel we are European as well as British to remain so.

Currently, individuals are only EU citizens if they are nationals of an EU member state. If the UK is no longer in the EU, we are no longer EU citizens. But why not allow people from departing member states to become EU citizens directly, out of choice?

You would have to opt in, perhaps you would have to make a public declaration of support for the EU and maybe face a citizenship test.

Pro-Europeans would get to keep their EU citizenship, which they value, whilst anti-Europeans would get to shake it off. This solution would do something that the Government seems uninterested in doing, namely trying to find a way forward that works for as many people as possible – not just ramming through the agenda of some people at the expense of everyone else.

But what is in it for the rest of Europe? After all, it is a big ask. Well, with a big member leaving, the EU will shrink. There is a risk that the EU will look very much to be on the wane. Its 12 stars will perhaps appear to burn a little less brightly than before. In which case, what better way to give Europe renewed zip and zing than footage of British citizens queuing anxiously to be let back in?

And think of the impact of the images of smiling, grateful Brits waving their new EU passports for the TV cameras? The wind will be back in Europe’s sails.

I set up a blog to get to promote this idea. Amazingly, within a few days and on the back of just a handful of tweets and Facebook posts, more than 100,000 people had read it and 15,000 have signed up to support the idea.

And it turns out that support for the principle goes further than one might think. A Liberal MEP from Luxembourg, Charles Goerens, is pushing this very idea in the European Parliament. His amendment, calling for “associate citizenship”, is scheduled for a vote in the Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee on November 21. If approved, it will go before the whole Parliament next month.

Events are moving fast and this could happen.

If other member states need a little extra inducement, what if those of us who participated paid a subscription fee, the equivalent of what we are currently paying per person for EU membership through our taxes? Again, a fee is something that Mr Goerens is proposing to his fellow MEPs.

Last year, the UK’s contribution was £17.8bn gross, £12.9bn after accounting for our big rebate, and £8.5bn net (after one knocks off all the money we get back for things like farm subsidies).

In the same year, the UK’s population was estimated to be just over 65 million. So, crunching the numbers, each participant could pay a monthly fee of between £11 and £23 to belong. Subscription citizenship: it is a zeitgeisty, millennial interpretation of “no taxation without representation”. It is freedom of movement meets Netflix.

There is a challenge for the EU here too. It has adopted some of the trappings of statehood: a flag, an anthem, citizenship. Now, pro-European Brits are the first people who face it all being ripped from their hands. What is the EU going to do about that? If it just turns and walks away, maybe it should give up any pretension of being anything more than a simple club of countries.

This is the moment for the EU to be brave and bold, to show that the EU cares about the people who care about it.

The anti-Europeans are already squealing and squawking in their usual fashion over early reports in the media that this could happen. But it is worth repeating that this idea does not stand in the way of them getting any of the things they want. They would still be free to walk away from the EU and no longer be part of it.

But, importantly, this idea also allows pro-Europeans to remain part of the EU – a great, noble experiment that has become the most successful peace project in history. This idea is that deeply unfashionable thing in the era of Brexit and Trump: a compromise.

Stuart Bonar blogs at stillEU.uk and runs the Campaign to Remain page on Facebook.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest articles

Lily Allen: We can’t gaslight an entire community like this... That’s what’s happening

In the area around Grenfell Tower shock and grief is giving way to anger and tension. Lily Allen, has volunteered there every day since the disaster

Brexit 2027: This is the UK 10 years on

If you think Brexit has been a disaster after just a year, imagine the damage it will do in a decade

Khan tells May: You need to “wake up and smell the coffee over Hard Brexit plans

Theresa May needs to “wake up and smell the coffee” and accept that the British public has rejected her plans for Brexit, Sadiq Khan said.

Nick Clegg: How to guard against ‘strong man’ politics

In an uncertain global landscape, the former deputy prime minister outlines reforms needed to safeguard the international order against nationalism and ‘strong man’ politics

Over dinner Tories sharpen the knives

Dinner table debate with Tory voters offers fascinating food for thought…

Theresa May is risking Ireland’s future

The Conservatives deal with the DUP risks undermining the delicate balance of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, says leading Sinn Féin figure

Psychology of Brexit: Simplicity

For what do people want more than anything else? It’s not the policies or the ideology, the big political personalities or the budget details, but more than anything they want the roulette wheel to stop turning.

Some joker organised Theresa May’s leaving drinks and 177k people RSVP’d

No plans on June 30? A Facebook event to give the PM a “happy send off” after a difficult year is proving to be seriously popular

Keep moaning. Keep sabotaging. Keep resisting

The Conservatives have been exposed as the opportunistic self-serving incompetents that they are.

Theresa May’s deal with the DUP to prop up her ailing Conservative administration is in doubt

With a critical Queen’s Speech looming the Northern Irish hardliners continue to play hardball for improved terms to vote with the Tories in the House of Commons.

Nicola vs. Ruth: Get set for biggest face off in politics

The seemingly sure-footed Nicola Sturgeon may have misjudged the post-Brexit mood.

Mrs May and her gay-hating mates

The kingmakers of Theresa May’s diminished government, the Democratic Unionist Party, hold some very controversial views

Two divorce lawyers have given their professional advice for Brexit talks

“After Brexit, the sooner we can reach the point of acceptance about our future the better.”

David Davis wants a Brexit deal ‘like no other in history’

Brexit Secretary David Davis will call for a “deal like no other in history” as he heads to Brussels to launch negotiations for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Austerity may be over, but Brexit means it won’t feel like it

Inflation and prices are rising, real wages falling. We’re all going to feel the squeeze.

What will it take for black and Asian Tories to realise their party fears and loathes diversity?

There is no place in the Conservative Party for 
ethnic minorities

Your chance to own limited edition artwork

Signed artwork by The New European strictly limited to 200 signed prints

Anyone still barking ‘Brexit means Brexit’ should be ashamed of themselves

The election taught us the importance of nuance which was missing amid the misplaced certainties of last year’s referendum. Now, we desperately need to hang on to it

Trade deals not on agenda for looming Brexit talks

Brexit talks kick off on Monday – but there won’t be any talk about trade.

Watch us on YouTube

Boris Johnson is clear as mud on Brexit talks

Views: 866

Tim Farron steps down as Lib Dem leader

Views: 202

Jeremy Corbyn schools Theresa May on strong and stable leadership...

Views: 661

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter