Back in the latter part of 2016 Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens proposed the idea of “Associate citizenship” for British citizens after Brexit. He called for a European associate citizenship after he criticised the British government for not tackling the issue of rights for British citizens living the EU and what their status would be following the departure of Britain from the Union. One year on and despite the fact that Westminster has repeatedly stated that citizens’ rights are at the top of their agenda, we are still nowhere near knowing where citizens stand in the absolute mess that is Brexit. It is now time to look at the motion again.
As unfortunate as it seems, I very much doubt that Brexit will be stopped at this stage. It seems that the British government, despite having managed to drag itself from new crisis to another, still firmly believes that it must “keep calm and carry on” with leaving the European Union. The whole concept of what it will talk to do this is not only impossible from a practical point of view but utterly ludicrous. With less then six months to go before they must pack their bags and vacate the premises, the British government is nowhere near any sort of agreement in this divorce. And in the true fashion of public divorces, it’s all messy and spiteful with both sides blaming each other while the children, or the citizens in this case, are the ones in the middle feeling isolated and unsure of their future.
Saving their skin long term
At this stage the Conservative party has weighed up the consequences of Brexit and decided that it is best for its long term survival that they go through with it. Maybe, twenty years down the line, Britain will rejoin and although it will be a black mark on its history, the survival of the Conservatives will be assured long term. However, if they decide to renege on the decision to leave, they believe that would be the self destruct button for one of the oldest political parties in the world. By staying true to the referendum decision they will say that they adhered to the will of the people, no matter how ridiculous and ill informed that will was at the time. Governments are supposed to lead and advise the public, not adopt populist agendas in order to survive in office. Yet, simply put, Brexit is that, and, sadly, it seems that nothing can stop this lemming like run to the cliff edge.
This should still be a option for British citizens
And while there is no doubt that many British citizens still support this concept and think that ten years from now Britain will be a superpower once again, there are many who do not share this utopia and the European Union must not be so willing to cast them adrift. These citizens are being denied their fundamental rights – rights that many of them had had since birth and Brexit has stolen them away, so why should they be forced to subject to British laws first and have no choice on whether to accept EU law instead?
Send a message – don’t mess with citizens’ rights
The EU can send a message to the British government and show the people of Europe that they are still a union for the people – a union that recognises that nothing short of a coup has happened, and therefore EU citizens are in jeopardy and thus should be protected by the current laws that are there in place to do so.
Ireland has been a friend to many British citizens by offering their citizenship through the grandparent rule that can mean that many citizens of Britain can apply if they have grandparent of Irish descent. Recent figures show that the Irish passport service has seen a 14.8 per cent increase in applications so far this year and it is expected to receive about 800,000 applications for Irish passports by the end of 2017, which will be the highest amount of applications for one year. It is estimated that there are over one and a half million Irish citizens living outside the island of Ireland. And what is staggering is that this figure does not even include the many people who may be entitled to Irish citizenship through descent. Since 2010 almost one million passports were issued outside the Irish state.
Despite this being a huge burden on the Irish civil service and being well documented in Irish media, there is no backlash from Ireland in general. Many Irish citizens fully sympathise with the situation that Britons find themselves in and the notion that Ireland can help seems a positive one.
And it is this attitude that the EU should start to consider if it turns out that a hard Brexit will be the outcome.
Of course, there will be bureaucratic hurdles, but it is not an impossible concept considering that Britons can hold dual citizenship, so really it should be down to an agreement on both sides. The vast majority of Britons who live and work in another EU state contribute immensely to the local economy that they reside in, so there is no fear of a welfare or even refugee situation developing. And while there is a concern about pensions, we are not talking about vast amounts of immigrants suddenly being dumped on an EU states’ local social welfare system. British citizens still can still make a valuable contribution to the EU, even if their leaders don’t want to.
So here we are in November of 2017, a year and half on from that faithful night when Britain decided to play Russian roulette with its future and still there is no agreement on any of the issues that concern those who wish to remain. An even the leavers are beginning to worry that nothing is being agreed upon, so what can we do?
We are all Europeans is what I hear constantly and it’s time that we started to act like a union and move to protect those who are our fellow citizens. Because until something is agreed upon, our fellow citizens are in limbo, not knowing where their future lies and that to me is reprehensible.
If you would like to get involved in the campaign for citizens’ rights following the Brexit result, you can join our partners, New Europeans and play your part in deciding your future.