How will Brexit impact citizenship?

PUBLISHED: 10:43 04 March 2018 | UPDATED: 11:59 04 March 2018

How will Brexit change citizenship?

How will Brexit change citizenship?

PA Wire/PA Images

Should Britons be able to keep their European citizenship after Brexit? PROF VOLKER ROEBEN investigates

Brexit as a process not only has consequences for the economies of the UK and the remaining EU states, it has consequences for each of us as individuals.

These consequences concern the European citizenship that each national of an EU member state holds. This citizenship, introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht, gives holders the right to reside, study and work in the territory of the EU. It is a fundamental token of a European Union that serves individuals, rather than states.

European citizenship does not substitute for or take away from the citizenship that individuals hold in their respective member state – it gives additional rights. Citizenship is closely associated with human dignity – it is the basis of being included in a political community. Not being excluded from that community against one’s will, not to be made the object of public authority, is the expression of dignity – the highest value.

Brexit need not strip UK nationals of their European citizenship. Both international law and EU law are very clear.

Of course, a member state is free to terminate its membership for the future, but it cannot extinguish the citizenships that have already been created and the rights that have been exercised – these continue. This status cannot not be taken away neither by the European Union nor by one of its member states.

This is also the impetus of the international law of treaties laid down in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This international law will be binding on the EU, the UK and the remaining member states after Brexit. It governs in considerable detail the consequences that the withdrawal of a state from any treaty, including the Founding Treaties, entail.

One consequence is that the treaty ceases to bind, but the other is that the withdrawal must not have retroactive effect on the rights of individuals already created at the time of withdrawal.

Finally, this has been long-standing policy and law of the UK. When the UK recognised Ireland as an independent country, it made plain that individuals should not be stripped of their UK citizenship against their will as a result. It therefore enabled them to retain their UK citizenship if they so wished. All it took was an expression of will, and the rights to vote for the Westminster Parliament as well as the rights of abode and of working inherent were safeguarded.

Parliaments ultimately are responsible for the rights that individuals hold. The parliaments, of the EU and the UK, are thus the principal guarantors of this continuing citizenship. The Withdrawal Agreement that the EU and the UK have to conclude under Article 50 is under their ultimate responsibility. It is also their responsibility to determine the rights of those individuals that had not yet acquired European citizenship at the time of Brexit, for instance through an associate citizenship for British nationals.

It is a matter of political will, rather than legality, whether UK nationals should get to keep their European citizenship after Brexit. It is up to Theresa May and her government to negotiate it into the withdrawal agreement.

• Prof Volker Roeben is Professor of International Law and Global Regulation at the University of Dundee. He wrote a widely acclaimed report on the European Citizenship for UK nationals post-Brexit.

MORE: Subscribe to The New European for 6 weeks for just £1 and receive two FREE gifts

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

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

ANTI-BREXIT EVENTS

Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy