Why I won’t sign the EU citizenship petition — and why you shouldn’t either
Over on Twitter, there is a lot of chatter about a petition to preserve EU citizenship for life. The idea is simple enough — if you are a citizen of a country that is a member of the EU (and therefore you are an EU citizen) that should not be taken away just because your country decides to leave.
And by ‘your country’, obviously we are talking about the UK.
This may be a good idea to make a disclosure — I am a remain voting, UK citizen who lives in France. As such, I would benefit hugely from being able to retain EU citizenship like this and should really be its Number One Cheerleader. But I’m not.
At first glance, it is a nice idea that solves a lot of problems for British people who voted to remain and for those who are ‘Remainer Now’. We would, so the theory goes, feel that we could retain the very thing that is important to us — our European identity.
However, if we take this to its logical conclusion, wouldn’t this act as a huge incentive for people to vote to leave? After all, if the personal consequences are effectively zero, why stay? We could move around the EU, live where we want, get the protection of EU embassies worldwide — all without that other complicated stuff that we don’t really understand, can’t be bothered to find out and, let’s be honest, have to pay for!
Actually, my objections to this go well beyond that and they lay in the sense of British entitlement that is underpinning the UK’s entire negotiation strategy. Those continual ‘but why won’t the unreasonable Europeans agree to us having free access to their market but only parts of it so that we can protect ours?’ bleats. The ‘BUT THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM’s. The ‘Of course they will let us move there as if we were EU citizens rather than treating us like non-EU citizens’ mindset.
Because, like it or not, the UK voted to leave the EU. Their leader (and I use that term loosely), Theresa May, is showing no signs of trying to lead and explain why, having seen all the evidence, it’s a terrible idea. The Tory Party has decided to lionise her ineptitude along with the far right elements that are its new best friends. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has decided to stick with its doggedly pro-Brexit leader. So, it looks like they have made their mind up and that has consequences.
Firstly, middle-ly and lastly, that means that they can’t have nice things. All the toys that they liked, they are gone.
Chief amongst those is citizenship.
EU citizenships is linked to citizenship of a member state in the treaties. Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union could not be more clear:
Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.
One relies on the other and, fundamentally, we British are pretty much the last people on Earth who have any right to ask for that to change.
It is for continuing EU members to decide on whether to offer that opportunity to member states. The UK had 40 years when it was sniping and obstructing when it could have suggested that EU citizenship was separate and a birthright that should be permanent. However, it did not. It only seems interested in the idea now.
The Permanent EU Citizenship petition is a British solution to a British problem and is based on a sense of British entitlement — for some reason, we ‘deserve’ the law change to protect us. You only need to see the numbers of EU27 citizens signing the petition to see how little they are interested in it. The reason is simple — if you want EU citizenship, you just need to stay in the EU.
There is only one solution to this whole debacle and that is to stop Brexit. It is clear that, having been confronted with the reality of the situation, the UK has changed its mind. All that is left now is for May (or her successor) to withdraw her premature Article 50 letter and for the UK to start acting like a full member of the EU rather than continually bleating for special treatment like it has for the past 40 years.