On false assumptions about Brexpetitions

I’ve struggled to communicate what the two Brexit petitions are about, partly because as far as I can tell I’m saying something different and people make assumptions, they like to put things in familiar boxes.  So here’s my recent reply to a lawyer who had given me some useful feedback but also misunderstood my aims:

“Hi J

Thanks for such a detailed reply, it’s very encouraging.  I can see I need to clarify two points:

  1. Your reading is half right. I do want the EU negotiations related to Brexit to involve citizen participation to influence decisions.  More specifically, I want the EU side to lead their own consultation process, for Brits and other Europeans, designed to comply with EU citizens’ right to be heard (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights article 41).  I am not attempting to influence how the UK government seeks the views of its citizens.
  2. I do not want EU citizenship to be protected for UK citizens even after Brexit. In fact I think it is unjust to call for British citizens to be treated as some kind of special EU citizen, because all citizens should have equal rights, and because establishing some special kind of citizenship undermines the whole concept of democratic international citizenship.

I would be interested in why you confidently state that “As EU citizenship is contingent to national citizenship then when the state your national citizenship is based on leaves the EU, you will automatically lose EU citizenship”.  This is a genuine question, I would really like to know the legal basis for that statement.  As I understand it the Treaty of Lisbon states that EU citizenship is additional to national citizenship, which is rather an ambiguous statement, not quite the same as saying EU citizenship is contingent to national citizenship, because additional implies a clear distinction between the two and could be understood to mean that they are not linked.  I know that there is some precedent for your statement from cases where an individual has lost national citizenship and therefore lost EU citizenship eg the case of Rottman v Freistaat Bayern, but arguably this is different, because:

  1. the case of a state withdrawing from Europe is different to the case of an individual losing national citizenship
  2. the individuals concerned – or a significant number of them – are not losing citizenship due to their own actions, in fact many of them have tried to maintain the Union through voting and campaigning
  3. it involves tens of millions of people, not one or two

I admit that your statement looks like the common sense view, it’s just that I think that the issues are too important not to challenge the EU to be absolutely clear on how citizenship is lost and who bears responsibility for the process.

I’m not sure whether I mentioned that there are now two petitions with my name on.  I first submitted one to the EU petitions committee in early October last year but after nearly five months of waiting for it to be approved I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and created the one at Avaaz.org, which you have seen.  The Petitions Committee finally approved my first petition towards the end of Feb and it is now online at https://petiport.secure.europarl.europa.eu/petitions/en/petition/content/1142%252F2016/html/Petition-1142%252F2016-by-Jonathan-Gutteridge-%2528British%2529-on-the-lack-of-any-provision-in-EU-law-for-loss-of-citizenship-when-a-Member-State-leaves-the-European-Union. The two petitions aren’t quite the same because they target different bodies and because by the time I wrote the Avaaz one I though I might as well put plenty of ideas in there, it was probably my last chance.  I’m really pleased to be getting a few signatures to the Petitions Portal one and to know that they will have to give me some kind of answer to it (eventually).

As I said above, I’m not trying to influence how the UK does Brexit.  Clearly Mrs May isn’t for listening.

The direct impact I want is procedural: (1) using the EU petitions portal to get answers from the EU Petitions Committee on the process of ending citizenship (2) using the Avaaz petition to involve the EU justice commissioner in ensuring that citizens have a voice in the EU’s approach to Brexit.  My motivation is to strengthen the ‘social contract’ between the EU and its citizens and understand how it works when tested.  Admittedly this is more of an ethical issue than a formal legal one but I think it is a matter of justice and I’m actually quite cross about it.

Since we spoke I’ve picked up a legal point that I think might make or break my argument for article 41 applying to the Brexit negotiation in terms of our right to be heard.  So far I’ve been optimistic that the loss of citizenship would constitute an ‘individual measure’ of the EU’s ‘administration’ as stated in article 41, but I now understand that the word individual could be key here, that potentially the Brits’ loss of citizenship would be considered a general measure rather than an individual one.  I wonder whether you have a view on that?

Thanks for mentioning WeMove, I’ll contact them to see whether I can explain myself and find some support there.  I wonder whether you can recommend who to contact and/or how best to contact them?

You’re right that it would be helpful for me to join up with others.  My trouble is I haven’t found anyone else who is as focused as I am on these procedural points.  Everyone else seems to be focused either on rhetorical political arguments designed to secure their interests and/or making unrealistic demands.

Thanks again for taking the time to write.

Best wishes,

Jonny Gutteridge



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