The European Commission has allowed a group to launch a petition calling for permanent EU citizenship after Brexit.
The proposed petition on “Permanent European Union Citizenship” is to be registered on July 23 as a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), the Commission announced.
“The main objective of the proposed initiative is to guarantee that European citizenship and its associated rights cannot be lost once they have been attained,” the Commission said in a press release.
“The organisers cite in particular the context of Brexit and the future loss of EU citizenship and rights to UK citizens,” it added.
The ECI is an instrument allowing EU citizens to suggest concrete legal changes in areas in which the Commission has power to propose legislation. In order to be considered by the Commission, an ECI requires a minimum of one million signatures from people living in at least seven of the 28 member states.
If the threshold is attained, the Commission can then decide either to follow the request or not, but has to explain its reasoning in both instances. Legislation may not follow.
Brits are expected to lose their EU citizenship after Brexit is in effect, either in March 2019 or at the end of the transition period in December 2020.
EU citizenship does not replace British nationality but is instead additional to national citizenship. It grants specific rights such as the right to travel and live anywhere in the EU and the right to vote and stand as a candidate in European and local elections where they are living.
It also allows EU citizens to get diplomatic protection and consular help from any EU country wherever they are in the world, even if their own country does not have a local embassy.
The petition asks that people who wish to retain their EU citizenship after Brexit be allowed to do so.
Citizens’ rights have been one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations so far. The British government has been adamant that free movement would end at the end of the transition period in December 2020.
It said EU residents in the UK would have to apply for “settled status” for which they will have to prove that they have been lawfully living there for at least five years. The status will grant them the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits as they currently have.
But the UK has accused the EU of being too slow to unveil its own plans regarding the 900,000 Britons living across the 27 other member states.
The Withdrawal Agreement states that frontier workers, people who work in states in which they do not reside, should be allowed to continue to do so, but uncertainty remains over what rights Brits living in an EU member state will be entitled to post-Brexit.