Saturday, 10 December 2016

Citizens Under Suspicion

Who hasn't dreamed of remaining an EU citizen for the rest of their days? I certainly have. I wake up in the morning and scamper happily to the kitchen safe in the knowledge that I am forever protected by Regulation 575/2013 (who isn't passionate and partisan about the prudential requirements for credit firms?).  My mood only darkens when I've woken up enough to remember that Brexit is really going to happen and the UK Government are floundering around like novice synchronised swimmers with aquaphobia. I'd always thought it no more than wishful thinking that I could remain a citizen of the EU but now Guy Verhofstadt, the EU's chief negotiator, has signalled he will make EU citizenship a priority in the divorce talks. Thanks Guy! Now, I'm a dour Scot so before we get too carried away let's think about this for just a second.  Actually, it will take longer than that so here is a song with semi-appropriate title to aid the illusion time is going faster.  For extra tantalisation there is some wild speculation at the end.  Enjoy.

The rights of EU citizens are really derived rights rather than rights directly bestowed from the European Union itself. Another way of putting this is that the EU rights enjoyed by residents of the UK are only the rights that the UK Government put into force because they were compelled to by treaty agreement. For example, the rights of EU nationals to work in the UK is a right arising from the UK Government implementing Directive 2004/38 into domestic legislation. Conversely, my right to work in Germany is a right derived from the German Government adopting Directive 2004/38 into their domestic law. All EU countries are compelled to adopt EU Directives so there is an automatic reciprocation of rights and responsibilities. This holds true for rights that follow from all EU Directives: people in the UK only enjoy the right not to be electrocuted by their toaster because the UK adopted into domestic law the corresponding legislation on toaster safety. What about EU Regulations? They're a bit different from EU Directives because they are passed by the EU Parliament and are never formally adopted domestically. The key point here is that EU Regulations are only recognised in the UK because the Government signed a treaty setting out their responsibility to adhere to EU Regulations. As soon as the UK Government rescinds or rewrites those treaties those rights will disappear. The principle that all EU rights are actually gifted by nation states holds true no matter which way you look at it. This is an uncomfortable truth for Leavers because it turns out EU democracy is limited by the democratic conventions of its member nations. It's also bad for Remainers because the power to leave the EU and thereby modify the rights of its entire resident population is very much in the gift of the UK Government.

Citizen Smith of the EU. Would have been for or against?  Hard to tell these days.
I hope I've made it clear that the concept of EU citizenship is poorly defined but if it means anything at all it means being a citizen of a country in the EU.  There is simply no way for the EU to impose responsibilities on the UK Government after it has torn up all those satanic European treaties. It follows that when the UK leaves the EU I will no longer be an EU citizen.   If I want to remain being a citizen of the EU my only real hope is to apply for citizenship of any country that remains in the EU.  I don't think Guy Verhofstadt is proposing that we solve all our Brexit problems by issuing Austrian and Danish citizenship to willing volunteers from the UK.  That would never be politically acceptable.  What is he offering, then?  The only thing he could ever offer is that UK citizens will continue to enjoy the rights they have now to work, live, travel and invest in the countries of the EU. For that to happen he needs the agreement of all countries of the EU.  Politically, this will be very hard to achieve but I wish him the best of luck.

What is Guy Verhofstadt really playing at?  Well, there's a very real problem awaiting the UK and the EU that needs to be solved with the utmost urgency.  The problem relates to families holding a mixture of UK and EU passports, especially those on low income that haven't yet established permanent residency.   The right to permanent residence in an EU nation for non-EU nationals is granted after 5 years continuous residency.  I don't see the EU changing that just because the UK is leaving and I certainly don't imagine it would apply the rule in a discriminatory way.  If you're a family with a UK member living in the EU you shouldn't experience any problems if you've already hit the 5 year target.  I can breathe a huge sigh of relief because I find myself in that exact situation (I know I'm not a family but you get the idea).  It is not yet known if the UK will continue with the 5 year rule or if it will make up a new rule.  We do know, however, that non-EU individuals can only attain permanent residency if they can prove an income of above £35k.  Moreover, UK nationals can only sponsor their partner if they earn more than £18,600.  What does all of this mean after Brexit?  Will EU citizens with permanent residency under EU rules have to re-apply and prove they earn more than £35k?  Will UK nationals need to meet a minimum income requirement if they want to remain in the same town as their EU partner?  None of this has been decided or announced and time is running out.  My guess is that Mr Verhofstadt wants to make this a top priority and force the hand of the UK Government. Let's be honest, this needs solved and nobody is looking to David Davis for the solution.
He can definitely count to 1 but I've never seen him get up to 2.
To finish with some wild speculation I think that Guy Verhofstadt is playing a rather clever game.  My guess is that he's going to dangle all those EU rights in front of UK citizens, who will then expect the UK Government to snap them up and make some concessions in return. The UK Government will be completely against this because they will start to imagine the legal nightmare of a domestic rights war, even though that could never happen.  The penny will never drop, though, that they will be refusing something that could never actually be offered. Their refusal will make them look miserly, especially to the 48% who voted remain.   Even Leavers might start to think that a free gift has been rejected.  Guy Verhofstadt is just making trouble by confusing Team UK and creating domestic arguments that will take up valuable time and effort. That is his job and he appears to be rather good at it.  If he forces the UK Government's hand on how to deal with everyone stuck in limbo then good on him.  That really does need resolved, along with everything else in the quagmire of indecision and idiocy that follows Brexit wherever it goes.

Over and out,


PS I never really blogged about EU Regulations, did I? Anything that requires the cooperation of 2 or more member states is decided in the EU Parliament by MEPs and adopted as a Regulation. In general, that means anything that moves across a border such as pilots, aeroplanes, pension transfers. Anything that can be implemented by nations on their own is typically a Directive and is adopted into domestic law. Examples might be employment rights, the labelling of jam and marmalade, and the disposal of batteries. There is nothing undemocratic in either Regulations or Directives because they are either agreed by MEPs or by representatives of each nation at the Council of Ministers.  Tell that to Farage!

PPS There is a Xmas special coming up. It might take a little longer to write than usual so there may be a short break while I prepare my seasonal extravaganza. 


  1. This is only partly connected to this post, but the issue of citizenship brings to mind an example of Tory double thought which might amuse you....
    A retired senior military type who lives around here and is an ardent Tory, Leaver and Unionist, announced to the his friends in the pub that he had taken up Irish citizenship so he wouldn't have any trouble with holiday visas etc after we left the EU.
    He then seemed to be rather taken aback by me calling him a self-centred hypocritical weasel, declaring he had every right, since his father had been born in Ireland, which rather seemed to miss the point.
    I very much want to keep my EU citizenship, but may be forced to give it up by people like him.
    As he is one of those whom we will never be able to persuade re an independent Scotland however bad the mess gets under this awful UK government, I truly resent that he will be able to bugger of to anywhere in the EU, and I will be stuck.
    Oh how much we need an Independent Scotland.

    1. He truly is a weasel. With luck he'll get called up for an extended period of National Service or forced to do jury duty on a complex tax case in Donegal that takes years and years. That'll learn him.

      Being a UK national is starting to get embarrassing. Actually, it's way past that now. Soon enough it will just be frustrating and depressing. For the time being there's enough evidence that we can remain hopeful. The whole UKexit shambles is only starting to unfold and I don't see any of it strengthening the Union.

  2. I have some friends (yes, I do, Terry, really I do) who are lawyers, pretty wealthy, so wealthy in fact that they retired some 20 years early and own a rather nice villa in Spain, which they visit for a few weeks maybe 4 times a year.

    They are both rabid leavers, but the idea of EU citizenship appeals, if only because they are unsure of their house owning status post Brexit.

    As long as it is reasonably inexpensive, I think it will have mass appeal, not least for people who do a few holidays a year (no visa, no, or low insurance, reciprocal health care, etc.) but also for businessmen who spend a lot of time there.

    All my EU based friends think we're completely mad wanting to give this up. But then their news papers haven't been pouring frothing fascist hatred down their necks for the last 10 years.

    In the UK Brexit seems largely to be about taking back control and "all these foreigners taking our jobs, hospital beds, school places, houses, etc..." when in fact those foreigners contribute a vast amount to the economy, and the lack of beds, houses, school places, is down to under funding over 30 years.

    When the foreign workers are gone, Brits will find that not only are there no more beds in their hospitals, there are no more doctors and nurses either. As for taking back control, well, that fell on its arse when the British courts, full of British judges, made a decision that didn't please the right wing press. These very British Establishment legal people became "enemies of the people".

    So much for wanting to take back control of our laws.

    I wonder if any other nation has a Daily Diana.

    Christmas Special... sounds like something with Little and Large and Ken Dodd in it. Please tell me it's not...

    1. Buying a property in the EU involves all sorts of freedoms and protections: money transfers, rights to own property, rights of residence, rights to take disputes to European courts, rights to not be discriminated against etc etc. It is kind of astonishing to me that a lawyer couldn't see that they were taking advantage of all of those EU rights and protections and that they could be removed on leaving the EU. They've now left themselves at the mercy of the EU for the continuation of those rights. That is not taking back control. I don't get it, I really don't.

      The whole court saga is a bit of a soap opera, isn't it? I wonder if any of it actually matters. It all seems to be predicated on the idea the UK will decide the outcome. They won't.

      I'm far more interested in this: It will force the EU to lay out its legal obligations. That, to my mind, is far more important than anything rattling through the UK courts.

      I think this proposal will have mass appeal but not to the UK Government. I'm sure that is Verhofstadt's intention. The game begins.

      Other nations do have right wing newspapers, of course. I've not seen anything quite like the Daily Express or Daily Mail anywhere else, at least not in Germany or Switzerland. In Germany, for example, there does appear to be a wide consensus about the positives of the EU. Their history kind of dissuades them from articles about immigrants eating swans or generally being foreign and therefore nasty. The Euro is a bit more contentious, though. Here in Switzerland there is "Blick", which occasionally points out whether a criminal is born in Switzerland or acquired Swiss nationality. Quite unpleasant, really. It's just not on a scale or frequency of the UK press. Nowhere near.

      I would guess that Little, Large and Dodd are all Leavers. They will not be in my seasonal special.

    2. Forgot to post estimate costs. The UK per head contribution is about Euros 225 so about £190. [] I would guess a figure around that to take part in Verhofstadt's plan. Maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.


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