Theresa May must face up to hard facts – Charles Goerens MEP

“It is crucial to remain ambitious when it comes to citizens’ rights; citizens remain at the heart of the EU” declared Charles Goerens, Demokratesch Partei and ALDE MEP, in an address to a meeting that formally established a branch of Liberal Democrats in Luxembourg.  This is the Liberal conviction that underlies Charles Goerens’ proposal of ‘associate EU citizenship’ for those who feel and wish to remain part of the European project, but who are nationals of a former Member State. “Putting the interests of citizens first is among the prime concerns of the EU Parliament, which has a decisive say on any outcome.”

“Theresa May has learned that Brexit is a little more difficult than she expected at the beginning” he commented with typically Luxembourgish understatement. He believes that Theresa May thought that an election and strong words could strengthen her negotiating position but said that she cannot continue to hide behind elections and crowd pleasing gestures.  Theresa May has to face up to hard and very complicated issues.  At the top of the agenda is finding solutions for the borders between Northern Ireland and Ireland and between Gibraltar and Spain.  Further urgent priorities are the interests and status of UK nationals living in the 27 EU states and of EU citizens in the UK.

“Certainty is needed as soon as possible” … “both parties must deliver answers to the many open questions without delay”.  He emphasised that it is paramount that these issues are handled “with fairness, with reciprocity and without discrimination”. Acceptance of the four freedoms seemed implicit in these requirements.

When asked how associate citizenship could work in practice, he said “Unfortunately we must admit that EU citizenship is linked to a state’s membership, so once your country leaves the EU you are stripped of your citizenship”.  However, “politics is about choices and imagination, and finding answers to problems.”

Charles Goerens does not accept that a hard Brexit is an inevitability; describing the situation as absurd, he will not believe that May’s government can accept the damage to UK manufacturing and financial services that would follow from a hard Brexit.  He suggests that an outcome of negotiation could be associate membership for the UK, along with which would be associate membership citizenship.  However, he envisages that a resolution will require existing treaties to be reopened and modified, which will not be easy.

In his concluding remarks to Liberal Democrats in Luxembourg, Charles Goerens affirmed “Citizens remain at the heart of the EU and you should know that you are neither abandoned nor forgotten.”

This article is based on an interview with Charles Goerens and his address to Luxembourg Liberal Democrats

 

* Martin Bennett first campaigned in Cheltenham in 1974, was the Bermondsey Party press officer from 1981-3 but is presently resident in Luxembourg. He is Deputy Chair of Liberal Democrats Luxembourg.

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