I’m angry. I’m angry because I’m about to be stripped of my EU citizenship. I was asked if I wanted to keep it. I said I did. But it’s being torn from my hands nonetheless. But I’ve got an idea…
There will come a moment, on a date we don’t yet know, when as the clocks strike 12 the UK will tumble out of the European Union. At a stroke, tens of millions of Brits will lose the right to live, work, study and retire with the minimum of fuss across 27 other European countries. It will be a meaningful, tangible and instant loss of opportunity and freedom – one forced on 60+ million people by the 17 million who voted Leave on 23rd June.
But the sense of foreboding loss that I feel goes deeper than simply losing the legal right to go grey in Gran Canaria. To many of us our European citizenship is as important as our British citizenship (for some, even more so). We’re proud of it. It stands for something important – a belief that as a continent we’re better and stronger together, not broken up, bickering and Balkanised. We’ve tried that before; it doesn’t end well.
Some of my friends and people I work with are lucky. The good fortune of having a father born in Ireland means one can clamber aboard the shamrock lifeboat. Another has been able to claim German citizenship. Another, Cypriot.
Whilst they get to keep the burgundy passport – the ticket to being able to move freely across pretty much the entire continent and to continued citizenship of a noble project – the rest of us await our fate.
But do we have to? Do we have to just accept our lot? I don’t think we do. Let me explain.
Right now, EU citizens are only EU citizens because they’re citizens of the United Kingdom, or Germany, or France, or of one or other EU Member State. So, it’s an inconvenient and unwelcome fact that when the UK ceases to be an EU country, we cease to be EU citizens.
It’s also a fact that more people voted Leave than Remain. We can point out that it was a narrow victory (51.9% to 48.1%) and that the Leave case was a pack of lies abandoned almost instantly by anyone with anything to do with it. But nonetheless the UK Government can claim a mandate to negotiate the UK’s exit from the bloc.
You see the problem? Under current rules, those of us who value being EU citizens have to lose out for Brexit to happen.
But there is a way to square this circle. The EU could allow individuals to become citizens of it directly. They could decouple EU citizenship from citizenship of an EU Member State. Initially at least it could be a special case, only applying to citizens of a departing member.
And it would be ‘opt in’. You’d have to apply. Maybe you’d have to pass a citizenship test, demonstrating knowledge of Europe and the EU. Perhaps you’d have to make a public declaration of support for the EU.
By doing this, British pro-Europeans can maintain their EU citizenship, whilst the anti-Europeans can shake it off. The UK gets to leave; we get to stay. We’re still British citizens. We continue to live (most of us) here in the UK. We simply become British/EU dual nationals with one of these in our pocket…
Nothing is taken away from those who voted Leave. They get what they wanted – a UK exit from the EU. They can even take us out of the Single Market and the customs union, if they want to completely trash the economy.
It gives something to those who want it, without taking anything from those who don’t.
But why would the rest of the EU offer us this? Well, with the UK exiting, the EU will shrink. The idea of the European Union might be seen by some as on the wane. That it’s an idea that’s had its day. But it’s not. And having Brits queuing up to take out EU citizenship – waving EU passports for the TV cameras like Apple Store customers on the day a new iPhone model is released – would inject some much-needed ‘va va voom’ back into the idea of the EU.
If they needed a little extra inducement, what if every new British/EU dual national paid a subscription fee, the equivalent of what we’re currently paying for EU membership through our taxes?
Last year, the UK’s contribution to the EU was £17.8bn gross; £12.9bn post-rebate; and £8.5bn net (after one knocks off all the money we get back for things like farm subsidies). I am using a House of Commons Library briefing paper as a source here. The Office for National Statistics estimates that the population of the UK last year was 65,110,000. So, in 2015, we each paid an average of £22.78 (gross), £16.51 (post-rebate), and £10.88 (net) per calendar month to belong to the EU. Take your pick. It’s freedom of movement meets Netflix.
So, there it is. There’s my idea. I think it works. I think it’s a neat way to square a circle that lets the UK Government implement the result of the referendum, enables British pro-Europeans to keep their citizenship of the most successful peace project in history, whilst providing the EU with a little pep at a time when it needs it.
You with me? I hope so because I want to see if this idea can fly. The first thing we need to do is find out if there’s support for this. I think there is. When I asked on Facebook and Twitter, there seemed to be.
So, what I am asking is this – if you support me, if you want to keep that burgundy passport and continue to sashay through the EU passport channel then sign up to support the idea here. Please also leave a comment below. We’ll see how much support there is and take it from there.
UPDATE: 20,000 people have now signed up to support this campaign. To add your name, please click HERE and use THIS link. Thanks.