October 20
2020
Anjum Shabbir
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7th May 2020
Employment & Immigration

UK nationals argue EU Citizenship is a Permanent Status and file case against the Council of the EU: case pending before the General Court

UK nationals arguing that EU Citizenship is a permanent status have crowdfunded a case in which Professor Takis Tridimas of Matrix Chambers is one of a group of lawyers and representative group of UK citizens participating, and which was already lodged before the General Court of the Court of Justice of the European Union a few weeks ago. The defendant in the case is the Council of the European Union.

The status of UK citizens in the EU, and other EU citizens in the UK is currently governed by the Withdrawal Agreement, under which all EU-granted rights will continue until the end of 2020 as if the UK were still a member of the European Union. The UK government has said it will protect the rights of any EU citizens already living in the UK on 31 December 2020 – currently roughly 3.5 million people, by granting the right to remain upon application through a government EU settlement scheme.

However, this does not protect EU rights granted by virtue of EU citizenship under Article 20 TFEU, and the future approach is unclear: negotiations (interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic) are still ongoing between the EU and UK as to how the future relationship should be legally arranged, and the UK has expressed its reticence in extending the transitional period further in agreement with the EU, a position that however is still open to be agreed upon until July this year.

In the present circumstances therefore, it is assumed that EU citizenship and the associated would cease to apply to EU citizens from other Member States living in the UK, and UK citizens living in the other EU Member States from the date of effective withdrawal.

The argument in the case is that all UK citizens who had EU citizenship on 31 January 2020 retain that citizenship notwithstanding the UK’s departure from the EU. While the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK Government and the EU has resulted in the UK as a Member State leaving the EU, the fundamental status (and related fundamental rights) of UK citizens as citizens of the European Union, which confers rights on them like any other citizenship, cannot be removed by that agreement without their consent, without any due process, and without reference to them. If successful, UK citizens would retain their rights as EU citizens; for example the right to live and work in EU Member States.

An earlier case lodged by UK citizens in the Netherlands argued that EU citizenship under Article 20 TFEU is an acquired right that cannot be revoked under international law, but it was dismissed for being a hypothetical claim at the time, and it was not referred to the Court of Justice as requested by the claimants. See also the unsuccessful case Schindler and Others v Council, T-541/19 brought by British citizens living in France and Italy, against the European Council and Council of the EU not having adequately protected their rights as EU citizens to vote (excluded from taking part in the British elections as they had lived elsewhere for 15 years).

More information about the filing of the case is available here.

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