EU citizenship?


Since the vote to leave the European Union back in June, many of my friends have suddenly developed a keen interest in their Irish ancestry. Others have already bagged a German passport, a Cypriot passport, and permanent residency in Belgium. Everywhere, anyone with a parent or grandparent from elsewhere in Europe is clambering aboard a lifeboat out of Brexit Britain. Some of us however aren’t able to contribute to the big, post-referendum spike in applications to become new Danes, Italians and Swedes.

I was giving this a lot of thought last month. Sure, I want to keep my right to live, work, travel, study, retire, even start a business across the EU with the minimum of bureaucratic fuss and bother, but it’s more than that. I am a European. I feel it in my bones. I don’t want my EU citizenship ripped from my hands. I want to keep it.

A thought popped into my head. A solution that would allow those who wanted to leave to do so, whilst allowing those who feel they are EU citizens as much as British citizens to remain.

Currently, individuals are only EU citizens if they are nationals of an EU member state. If the UK is no longer in the EU, we are no longer EU citizens. But why not allow people from departing member states to become EU citizens directly, out of choice? You’d have to opt in, make a public declaration of support for the EU (like people adopting new nationalities frequently have to do), and face a citizenship test too. We’d become joint British/EU dual nationals.

This solution would do something that the UK Government seems uninterested in doing, namely trying to find a way forward that works for as many people as possible – not just forcing through the agenda of some of the country at the expense of everyone else.

I set up a new blog just so I could get the idea out there. It has been visited way over 100,000 times, it’s had over 500 comments (almost exclusively positively), and 13,000 people have clicked on the link at the end of the post to sign up in support. I also blogged about it this week on an English-language Swedish website.

What’s in it for the rest of the EU? Well, a big member state is leaving. There is a risk that the EU’s 12 stars will look to be setting not rising. That the whole idea is on the wane. With Putin in the Kremlin and Trump in the White House, Europe needs to stick together and the EU needs to work.

What better way to put a bit of zip and zing into the idea of the EU than having ecstatic Brits waving their new EU passports for the TV cameras, like Apple Store customers on the day a new iPhone is released?

The EU has a flag, an anthem, citizenship. Many pro-Europeans like me are the first people who believe in all that who are also having it stripped from us. This is the moment for Europe to be brave and bold, to show it cares about the people who care about it.

And it is not outlandish. As reported in the Sun, the Independent, and London’s Evening Standard, a Liberal MEP – Charles Goerens – is pushing for it in the European Parliament. So, if you agree, read the idea in full in my original blog post, and sign up here.

* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Giangerolamo Pirinol 10th Nov '16 - 3:27pm

    I do hold an Italian passport but if given the choice to give it back and adopt an European one, I’ll do it tomorrow!
    Keep pushing!

  • Nick Collins 10th Nov '16 - 3:38pm

    @ Adrian. I’ve just done so, by using the link provided in the last line of Stuart’s excellent article.

  • Kay Kirkham 10th Nov '16 - 3:55pm

    I used to have a blue British passport years ago but I bought a red EU cover for it when we joined. I am definitely supporting this campaign.

  • Andrew Melmoth 10th Nov '16 - 3:56pm

    Nice idea. Not going to happen. How could the EU leaders sell it to their domestic electorates? Why would they even want to?

  • Signed 🙂

  • As someone who voted to leave the EU, I am not against those who want to pursue this idea.
    I am baffled though to how you would think it would work.

    Why on earth would the EU allow citizens of a former Member state to become EU Citizens and passport Holders with all the privileges that that contains, Free Movement, Free to work in any EU state etc. etc. What would be in it for the EU?
    It does not make any sense whatsoever.
    Unless by holding some EU passport/ citizenship, you in turn paid into some kind of EU Tax.
    Not only can I not see it happening, it just does not seem to be coherent thinking at all.

  • Sounds like a great idea. Go for it.

    It will, of course, as a side-effect prove those of us who voted ‘Leave’ because we thoguht the EU wanted to turn itself into a super-state right, because what could be more state-like than directly issuing citizenships?

    But as long as the UK as a nation leaves, there’s no reason why individuals shouldn’t opt back in (one assumes this would involve individuals paying a federal Euro-tax directly into the EU coffers — yet another step along the road to a super-state).

  • But, as an EU citizen, why would EU grant citizenship for a EU-brit when UK has a ban on migrants. Then UK has to grant the same for EU citizens?

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '16 - 4:51pm

    They won’t agree to it if we don’t offer the same to European citizens who want to be British. I wouldn’t want to make a declaration of support for the EU either, but I am fine with making a declaration of support for democracy. It could stifle free speech if you can get your citizenship taken from you if you start criticising the EU.

    I think we should just focus on soft-brexit. Skilled migration isn’t going to cease and most Lib Dem voters are quite well educated anyway, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

  • Stuart. A good start to get opinions. I signed.

  • Well look at it this way European are almost ready to accept more people into union from say turkey.
    So Europe EU will definitely better off giving free movement rights to British who are much educated , wealthy and remain smart !!!

  • James Hughes 10th Nov '16 - 5:43pm

    So, UK citizens would hold a UK passport & an EU passport?

    Allowing them free access to all that is EU and be able to return to the UK because they have their UK passport?

    And what if EVERY UK citizen signed up?

    Wouldn’t that give UK citizens total freedom over & above the rest of the EU citizens as they wouldn’t be able to freely move to and from the EU?

    No wonder the Lib Dems are a laughing stock if this is the product of your “think tank”

    What’s more laughable is ppl have actually signed up to this hair-brained, non-starter of an idea!!!

  • Barry Snelson 10th Nov '16 - 6:30pm

    Fi Wiz,
    I speak Irish, Are they leaving too?

  • Adrian, Giangerolamo, Nick, Kay, Cassie, Dav, Joan – thanks for the support.
    Andrew – I have set out a few reasons. But one way to guarantee it won’t happen is to not ask.
    Matt – click on the link to my original blog post for an idea about payment. Re: tax – you pay tax in the country in which you are living and working; that would be no different under this plan than it is now.
    Dav – And it would be no business of the UK what the EU does because it would no longer be a member. The UK Government can still be the grumpy, Eurosceptic bore sitting in the corner of the pub, but once we’re out of the EU, the other countries don’t have to pretend to listen to it.
    JarlT – it’s an ask. I don’t pretend otherwise. I make some points in this post about why it makes sense for the EU to be generous. I make some more in the original blog post, and also that Luxembourg Liberal MEP seems to think it’d be a good idea. I guess it boils down to this – pro-Europeans didn’t create this problem; if we could reciprocate, we would; please don’t issue a group punishment for the actions of around a quarter of the people who live in the UK (i.e. Leave voters).
    Eddie – “I wouldn’t want to make a declaration of support for the EU either” … that’s up to you – and under the plan I outline therefore you wouldn’t get in. No-one would be forcing anyone to do anything – unlike Brexit, which is forcing pro-Europeans to give up a citizenship that means something to them.
    Fi – I suspect English will remain an official language simply because it’s a good common language, but if a second language is required that’d be good – Brits should learn another language.

  • Yes keep me in Europe!

  • This does it for me and my children.
    Give me a form now and i could fill it in.
    It makes sense in my view because i was given EU Citizenship and i like that.
    I was given EU Citizenship and i embrace it.
    I am not going to give it up.
    My wife is a non EU National and i would love to see her granted an EU citizenship rather than a British one.
    Let us make it happen.

  • Does anyone really think the EU will give freedom of movement to a unknown – possibly many millions – number of Brits and the UK government gives nothing in return? I must be missing something.

  • Malc – yes, I do.

  • Barry Snelson 10th Nov '16 - 9:21pm

    I’m voting for Malc. There is an idiom for this. It is “clutching at straws”.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '16 - 11:07pm

    Stuart, so if I make the oath and then start criticising the EU could I get thrown out? The oath means nothing if it is just words and if it is not just words then there is a problem with free speech.

    I’ve got other skills that make me European, but I don’t fancy giving some kind of religious-like oath to the EU.

  • Eddie – I think that misses the bigger idea here. But, as you ask and speaking personally, many countries have some kind of requirement for citizens adopting a citizenship to make some kind of statement of attachment to the entity they are aligning themselves to; I don’t have a problem with that. Maybe you agree. Maybe you don’t. Up to you.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 10th Nov '16 - 11:23pm

    Eddie , malc , and Barry are correct , nice idea , Stuart join ALDE as an individual member and forge links with fellow European Liberals ! That is what pro-European political activists should do , socialists can and conservatives , or encourage the parties in Europe to accept that . And continue to feel European , and apply for jobs wherever you can and get residency .

    I think it very worryng that some , especially in the shadow of Scottish nationalism, cannot feel greater love for our hitherto United Kingdom, and be English or Scottish , Welsh or Irish , British too, but patriots for this great country .

    It is the lack of that spirit on the centre left that makes me more radical centre , more aware that , as someone with the right to apply and receive Italian nationality if wanted , as my father was from there , and I do not want that , and having married an American , the right to settle there if I want to , and I do not , how much I am a British patriot , who loves America , and likes many individual counties too, but on a case by case basis , not the so called semi country , EU !

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Nov '16 - 11:29pm

    Thanks for the reply, Stuart. I could make some kind of oath to respect the values of the European Union, but it depends how far it went and what the conditions were.

    Best regards

  • Sorry, but it does not work. There is no such thing as EU citizenship, really, just citizenship of an EU nation. The EU is not a country, and does not have the standing under international law to issue passports or extending citizenship. This is a waste of time.

  • Post-Brexit with a UK outside of the EU, UK passport holders will be treated as Non-EU/Rest of the World passport holder and thus subject to whatever visa rules individual member states wish to impose on UK nationals. Hence the idea of an EU passport, that grants the holder normal EU citizen rights such as freedom of movement, has its attractions.

    However, given the current constraints others have alluded to and the intent of the EU, I can the EU applying some restrictions to these passports of convenience, specifically requiring holders to nominate a EU member nation as their nationality and normal place of residence and thus make them subject to that country’s laws. Additionally, I see no reason why the EU wouldn’t seek to have these passport holders taxed on their worldwide earnings.

    So an idea with possibilities, but other options might be simpler.

  • David Allen 12th Nov '16 - 6:00pm

    Sounds a nice idea. But, as many have pointed out, there are overriding problems with the idea that the EU could just happily grant residence rights to Britons who might pay them a few quid for a “passport”, but would not pay the EU any taxes, nor accept any specific responsibilities to the EU.

    What about asking the EU if they would countenance something less – Not a real passport, but a “certificate of European heritage” or some such. This would NOT have any formal standing, it couldn’t be used at the passport counter, but it would certify that the holder has and values a common European heritage and that the EU recognises and respects that fact.

  • Ruben Garcia-Dols 13th Nov '16 - 1:30am

    I think it would be absolutely fair for Brits who live in the still-to-be EU countries to keep their rights as EU citizens, as long as non-British EU citizens who live in the UK keep the rights they currently have in the UK too. As for Britons who don’t live outside the UK, I agree they would have to pass a citizenship test. Otherwise, whereas it’s not likely EU citizens will have the right to to freely live and work in the UK without having resided here for at least 5 years and possibly undergone a citizenship test, there would be Brits who’d have that right in the EU without having made any effort to obtain it, it wouldn’t be fair. Moreover, in order to pass the European citizenship test, besides of showing social and historic knowledge of Europe, Brits would need to show fluency in an European language different from English. Because if I – as in immigrant in the UK – apply to citizenship in this country, I would need to show fluency in English which I’ve had to make an effort to obtain, honestly a much greater effort than learning some history. If Brits don’t have to make the effort of learning another language, neither that would be fair for EU citizens. Also, the British should be able to apply for EU citizenshi only during a limited time, for example 1 year after the UK leaves the EU. After that period, Britons would have to go to the EU and live there for 5 years to apply for European citizenship, same as EU and other foreign nationals need to live 5 years in the UK before applying for UK citizenship. All this is important because while I understand Brexit is very unfair for that 48% of Brits who voted to remain, Britons can’t have privileges in the EU that EU nationals wouldn’t have in the UK. It is not EU nationals’ fault Brexi happened and honestly we shouldn’t accept any kind of inequality.

    As for the British MP in the EU Parliament representing the British who have opt to keep the EU citizenship, who would pay for this MP’s salary? Same with the European elections for this group of Brits with EU citiezenship, who would pay for that? The EU? Why should the EU do that for group nationals from a country that doesn’t add any more to the EU’s economy? I’m sorry but I don’t think this would be viable.

  • I have never got why Leavers are so anti a European Super State? We have a North American Super State, a Russian Super State, a Chinese Super State. If we are going to have Super States, isn’t better to be part of one (even as an extra-tax paying associate citizen) rather than be a citizen of a past world power, that has lost its Empire, has few resources, and almost no influence?

  • a past world power, that has lost its Empire, has few resources, and almost no influence

    Maybe because we don’t think that Britain is an irrelevant fading power whose only possible rôle in the world is to become a mere constituent part of a super-state?

    You’re not going to win many people over if your main line is, ‘Can’t you see your country’s crap?’

  • Peter Martin 14th Nov '16 - 1:04pm

    @Jane Berry

    “I have never got why Leavers are so anti a European Super State?”

    Notwithstanding any arguments about whether that would be a good thing, we have to ask if there is anywhere near enough support for the concept. It would need a Federal Government of Europe with the power to impose taxes in the wealthy areas like London, Munich and Amsterdam which could be spent in the poorer areas of Greece, Spain and Portugal.

    I just don’t see that there is anywhere near that level of support, even from those in the UK, Germany, and Holland who are supposedly pro-EU.

  • chris hayes 14th Nov '16 - 7:50pm

    This is a fantastic idea. Sign me up. I think however that only those who sign up within the first year of leaving and continue to pay a membership fee should be entitled (and their children in perpetuity) Lets let the remaiers keep their rights and the leavers loose the rights that they don’t want.

  • Steve Comer 15th Nov '16 - 4:27pm

    This is a great initiative from the ALDE group, and should be supported with enthusiasm by all Liberals. We need to lobby our MEPs to ensure the Goerens ammendment is passed.

  • George Flaxman 16th Nov '16 - 3:18pm

    I like the idea, but I’m partially disabled and live on benefits. Is there a possibility that the UK Govt could say “if you are not a full UK citizen” then you are not entitled to UK benefits ?.

  • Steve Comer
    Not sure I can see UKIP MEPs signing up, unless they have suddenly seen the light!

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