Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

EU court invited to rule on Brexit rights

  • Anti-Brexit protesters wield French baguettes in London ahead of 2016 referendum (Photo: David B Young)

A judge in Amsterdam will ask the Court of Justice of the European Union whether UK citizens living in other EU countries will legally lose their EU citizenship as a consequence of Brexit.

The judge, Floris Bakels, announced his decision on Wednesday (7 February), after five Britons living in the Netherlands had filed a case against the Dutch state and the city of Amsterdam.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Amsterdam court will ask the EU's Court of Justice about Brexit (Photo: Shirley de Jong)

"Theresa May famously said, Brexit means Brexit, but the Brits currently living on the continent have no idea what that means for them," said the lawyer of the five, Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm.

"Are you an EU citizen for life or can your citizenship be taken away from you? That is the fundamental question that will be put forward to the European Court," he said in a press statement.

The Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam had argued that any ruling by the Luxembourg-based court would frustrate the political negotiations between the UK and the remaining EU member states, represented by chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

But judge Bakels said in his ruling that politically sensitive issues may still be the subject of court rulings.

He noted that the five plaintiffs had successfully argued that there was a realistic threat to their acquired rights.

"Plaintiffs are seeking protection from the civil court against this looming - and according to them already partially real - violation of their fundamental rights," Bakels wrote in his ruling.

"Granting such protection is pre-eminently a judicial task," he noted.

The judge explained that for other treaties, the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties could be used to find an answer.

However, because the EU treaties have created a separate, autonomous legal order, only EU law can answer the question what will happen to the rights and freedoms previously acquired when a member state leaves the EU.

The Court of Justice in Luxembourg is the highest EU court, but citizens cannot file cases directly. They have to go through national courts.

Clarification

It had been the plaintiffs' intention to have the EU court rule on the issue, and they made no secret of it.

"This case has always been about seeking clarification," said plaintiff Stephen Huyton in a statement.

"Not only for the 46.000 Brits living in the Netherlands, but also for the 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries ... You cannot play with the lives of 1.2 million people as if they are pieces on a chess board," he added.

The judge has given the plaintiffs and defence until Wednesday (14 February) to comment on the ruling, before he sends his request to Luxembourg.

He will also ask the EU court a follow-up question: If Brexit does not automatically lead to a legal loss of citizens' rights and obligations, should there be any conditions or limits applied to the preservation of rights and obligations?

An expat group which also joined the suit, the Commercial Anglo Dutch Society, said on Wednesday that they "hope and pray" that the EU court will deliver a ruling.

"With good fortune, we will know the outcome before the Brexit date of 29th March 2019," the group said in a blog post.

UK pledges easy registration for EU citizens after Brexit

Ahead of Brexit negotiations later this week, the UK government insists that its planned new system for EU citizens applying for a "settled status"after Brexit will be "streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly."

Visual Data

Citizens' rights: where EU and UK differ

The rights of 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK and 1.2 million UK nationals living in EU countries is one of the key issues of the Brexit talks.

UK slams EU's 'bad faith' on Brexit transition

Brexit secretary David Davis complained that releasing a document proposing sanctions if the UK did not respect the deal with the EU was "discourteous", in the most bad-tempered exchange of words so far between London and Brussels.

Barnier warns UK Brexit transition period 'not a given'

After one of the tensest week so far in Brexit talks, 'substantial' disagreements remain between the UK and the EU over transition, with Michel Barnier insisting London needs to decide on the future relationship and Ireland for Brexit to happen.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out

Opinion

What is fate of non-euro EU states after Brexit?

The UK's withdrawal from the EU will heighten fears of marginalisation among the eight member states - Bulgaria, Denmark, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Czech Republic and Hungary - that have not adopted the euro.

Opinion

Brexit vs Grexit: The six stages of losing to the EU

Theresa May's venture seems very similar to the attempt by Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to persuade Brussels to accept his terms for the bail out - a huge negotiation failure, presented to the public as the best possible deal.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  2. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  3. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  4. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  5. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019
  6. It is high time to exclude Fidesz from the EPP
  7. Brexit delay and Orban decision This WEEK
  8. EU must get real on Russia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us