Brits living in EU cannot retain pre-Brexit rights, EU court rules | Brexit

The European Court of Justice has been told that British nationals living on the mainland are not retaining the benefits of EU citizenship now that the UK has left the bloc, in a blow to campaigners fighting to retain more of their rights after Brexit.

Anthony Collins, Ireland’s Advocate General at the Court, said in an opinion published on Thursday that British nationals ‘who enjoyed the benefits of Union citizenship do not retain those benefits after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU’ .

The Luxembourg court is expected to issue a formal ruling on the case in June, which was brought in the name of a retired civil servant, Alice Bouillieze, who has lived in southwestern France for 37 years. He usually follows the advice of his defenders.

“Of course it’s disappointing,” said Bouilliez, 62, a former foreign ministry official. “There is still a chance that this opinion will be modified or even reversed, but it is upsetting. Opinion seems quite clear-cut and dry.

Bouilliez had based his case on losing his right to vote in local and European elections, arguing that European citizenship was a fundamental status that should not be taken away without consent when there were serious consequences for people’s rights.

Under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, the approximately 1.3 million British citizens residing legally in one of the 27 EU states at the end of the transition period are eligible for permanent residency, protecting their most basic rights.

But the Withdrawal Agreement failed to secure several rights that British nationals enjoyed as EU citizens, including the right to vote and stand in local and European elections and the right to live and work in outside their country of residence in the EU.

Julien Fouchet, French lawyer representing Bouilliez, said he was “very disappointed” with the announcement but stressed that in 25% of cases the court did not follow the prior opinions of its general counsel.

“Our arguments have not been heard,” Fouchet said. “The lawyer considers that nationality is the essential criterion, that residence does not count. He seems to think that British citizens can easily apply for dual nationality, but this is very far from always the case.

He said the advice was “oversimplified” and “a big step backwards for the European Union“. I consider European citizenship as one of the most important achievements of the Union. Its loss has far-reaching consequences.

Fouchet said he had hoped the voting rights would have been retained, pointing out that Bouilliez, who he said could not apply for French nationality because of his oath of allegiance to the Queen as an employee of the Foreign Office, was unable to vote in the Brexit referendum. because she has been out of the UK for over 15 years.

Collins argued in his view that EU citizenship was in addition to nationality conferred by member states and not a substitute for it, that British nationals had ceased to be EU citizens after Brexit and that the loss of citizenship rights was “one of the consequences of the UK’s sovereign decision to withdraw from the EU”.

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