A group of five British citizens in the Netherlands on Wednesday won their case to have their fight to keep European citizenship referred to the European Court of Justice.
The five individuals and two foundations had asked the Amsterdam court to refer the issue to the Luxembourg court so it can clarify what EU law says about citizenship.
In his ruling, the presiding judge Floris Bakels said he will ask the European court preliminary questions about what the consequences of a Brexit would be for EU citizenship and the rights which EU citizenship brings. Will Brexit mean that EU citizenship is automatically reversed or will Brits retain these rights and, if so, under which circumstances?
‘We are obviously delighted with the court’s decision,’ said Stephen Huyton, one of the plaintiffs. ‘However, this is only the first step to clarity about what Brexit means for our EU citizenship. ‘This case has always been about seeking clarification. Not only for the 46,000 Brits living in the Netherlands, but also for the 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries. As has been demonstrated in recent days, what Brexit means is still the subject of much discussion. You cannot play with the lives of 1.2 million people as if they are pieces on a chess board.’
Brexit means Brexit
Lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who represents the plaintiffs said: ‘Theresa May famously said, Brexit means Brexit, but the Brits currently living on the continent have no idea what that means for them.
‘Are you an EU citizen for life or can your citizenship be taken away from you? That is the fundamental question that will be put to the European Court,’ he said.
EU treaties state that any person who is a citizen of an EU member state is also an EU citizen which entitles them to move and live freely within the EU itself. Although the EU and Britain have made some progress on citizens’ rights in their negotiations so far, many – such as freedom of movement – are still up in the air.
Lawyers for the Dutch state and the city of Amsterdam had described the case as artificial and said that there was no proper connection to Dutch law. British nationals should, they said, direct themselves to the British government or British courts instead.