Britons abroad excluded from EU citizenship vote

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A new bid is being launched to make sure EU citizenship is retained for life – but British people abroad in some EU countries including France, the most affected group due to Brexit, cannot sign to bring this in.

A new ‘European Citizens’ Initiative’ is set to go live on Monday July 23, proposing that EU citizenship and its associated rights, once gained, cannot be lost.

The organisers cite in particular the context of Brexit and the impending loss of citizenship by Britons – retaining EU citizenship would mean Britons’ automatic right to live and work in France and the rest of the EU would be protected (with or without a residency card).

People will be able to sign to support the initiative and there will be one year for it to gain at least one million signatures from EU citizens from at least a quarter (seven) of the EU states. If successful, then the European Commission will consider putting forward new laws in support of it.

The European Citizens’ Initiative is a right contained in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, and launched in 2012. It puts citizens on a similar footing to the European Parliament and Council who are also able to propose legislation to the Commission.

However the EU member states have to validate the participation of people from their state and their rules on this vary – and it turns out that the French and UK rules clash, meaning Britons in France are not expected to be able to sign.

France says it will only validate people if they provide a French passport or identity card.

The UK says it will only validate people living in the UK.

A table and information sheet from the EU show that this situation is exceptional: notably, only the UK and Ireland have rules saying signatories must be residents in their countries. Also many EU countries are able to validate other EU nationals who live there (ie. only Brits in France, Bulgaria, Austria, Portugal and Czech Republic are completely excluded; some other countries, such as Italy, require people to have an ID document from the country, but do not limit these to their own nationals).

Previous successful European Citizens’ Initiatives include one relating to the use of glyphosate pesticides, which has led to new laws being put forward this year by the Commission on transparency and quality control in what scientific studies are used in considering food safety rules (the petitioners wanted to make sure studies done by the pesticide industry were not used).

More information on how those eligible can take part is expected next week and there is further detail about the new European Citizens’ Initiative for EU citizenship to be permanent at this page.

Those who could sign will include:

Dual British/French nationals, or French nationals living in France
Any EU citizen (including British people) living in the UK (however note that Britons will probably not be able to participate after March 29, 2019 if Brexit occurs as planned)
Britons and other EU citizens living elsewhere, subject to individual country rules.