I am a British person living in the UK and an internationalist.
My petition is for the citizens of all 28 member states. My aim is to identify the best possible process for citizens when any member state leaves the European Union. I believe such a process should be carried out in accordance with universal human rights and with the rights set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
I think the process should encourage citizen participation on the EU side of the negotiation and it should enable individual citizens to appeal decisions that infringe their rights.
Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon does not describe how citizenship is affected when a member state leaves, which means Brexit will set influential precedents for how the Union deals with citizenship. There’s real risk for the future value of EU citizenship if we allow the negotiation around it to be driven by state power rather than by consideration of fundamental rights.
European citizens need this to be a robust process. My petition asks for direct communication to all citizens, so we know what is happening and have a chance to respond, and an explanation of facts that would enable individual citizens to appeal Brexit decisions that affect them personally. In my view the Union should provide hearings across Europe, including the UK, to enable citizens to share evidence of how they will be affected.
This is a moral and legal issue but it is also about effective administration, more positive outcomes for citizens and standing up for what Europeans have achieved in developing international citizenship and cooperation.
I am asking for clarity over the legal process by which the EU acts to end citizenship when withdrawal of a member state is completed. There is common sense in ending EU citizenship for nationals of a state that leaves the Union but defining how it happens is important, because it will improve our understanding of how EU constitutional law and institutions may be used by citizens to influence the process and to appeal against any injustice that arises.
Union citizenship is additional to national citizenship. It is a supranational citizenship, linked or complimentary to national citizenship but distinct from it. As a citizen, I can see that there is a link between my national and supranational citizenship but I can also see and value the differences. I value the rights my EU citizenship affords me and my membership of a community of 500 million people, and I accept the moral obligation of participating in EU elections and of standing up to protect the EU’s achievements.
So for me it is not sufficient to assume that the link between national and international citizenship means EU citizenship just disappears when a nation state leaves. It makes me angry to think that I am expected to just let go of citizenship which gives me liberty unprecedented in human history, and sets me free from the limits of nationalism.
In creating European Union citizenship we have begun to develop a social contract between the EU and its citizens. Natural justice requires that termination of that contract must involve negotiation between the Union and its citizens. At a time when it’s easier and easier to share information with people, to give them an opportunity to have a say and to listen to their voices, it is not sensible or ethical to allow a national referendum to end international citizenship for millions of people without giving them a say.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states “the right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect her adversely is taken”.
Application of the right to be heard is an opportunity for all of us to work together on this. Participative processes enrich decision-making. They dig into complexity, unearth root causes and show how differing views and needs are linked. They enable new ideas to be generated and they develop understanding between people and factions.
So I would like to ask that the EU implements a programme of hearings to listen to ordinary people sharing evidence about how the end of citizenship will affect them. These should be formal proceedings, accessible to citizens of all current states, and designed to gather evidence in a way that discourages partisanship and conflict. Evidence gathered should be reported to the EU negotiating team to inform the EU position, and the EU should give reasons for decisions taken in the negotiation.
Ironically perhaps, Brexit, if carried out as I have described, offers an opportunity for a more inclusive democracy that could strengthen accountability and participation in Europe and set a positive direction for the future relationship between British and EU citizens. Individuals across Europe should have accessible and fair opportunities to influence what happens, and a chance to appeal if their rights aren’t upheld.