Let’s give EU citizenship to the British people who chose Europe

, by Benjamin Fievet

Let's give EU citizenship to the British people who chose Europe

Today, British people are voting on their future inside the EU. They may well decide to leave it.

Should this be the case, more than one million Brits living in other EU member states (and who are mostly in favor of remaining in the EU) could well suffer the consequences. Not being citizens of an EU member state any more they could, unless they returned to the UK, have to apply for working or residency permits. The future of their social security coverage would also be uncertain. All problems that EU citizens don’t have to deal with, precisely because they are EU citizens.

Looking to avoid such unpleasantness, many are those who, among those British expats, are seeking to obtain the citizenship of their host country. But the whole process can be an ordeal. And in some cases it might not even be possible (especially if they haven’t lived in the country long enough or don’t have the language skills).

These men and women who chose Europe shouldn’t suffer the consequences of a British exit from the EU decided by their countrymen who wouldn’t be affected. Even more so when a good number of them, having lived abroad for too long, will not have a say in this referendum.

That’s why, in the case that the UK leaves the EU, we should grant EU citizenship to the Brits living in other EU countries who want it regardless of whether they acquire the citizenship of a member state (and both not being mutually exclusive). Such a measure would allow them to retain all the rights conferred by EU citizenship (freedom of movement and of residence, right to vote in local elections…) no matter the exit conditions and future agreements negotiated with the UK. It would be held additionally but independently from the British citizenship.

Such a measure would not be a first. When Hong Kong was transferred back to China, the UK created a new category of British nationals especially for those Hong Kongers who were not British citizens to keep a link with the UK and benefit from some right. Aside from the practical consequences such a measure would have on British citizens residing on the continent, it would also carry some symbolic value: Delinking EU citizenship from member states nationality would also be a reminder that the European project is post-nationalistic.

In the event of a Brexit, we shall not succumb to anti-British sentiment. Instead, we should counter nationalism and allow those who feel European to continue to be so!

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