Allow Brits to apply directly for EU citizenship

An open letter to the EU presidents

Written by James Bartholomeusz


For the attention of:

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia, representing the incoming Presidency of the EU Council

Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

Koen Lenaerts, President of the European Court of Justice


Dear sirs,

Last Thursday, the people of the United Kingdom voted by referendum to leave the European Union. Like many others in Britain and around the world, I know you have been shocked and disappointed by the result of the vote. Despite some differences of opinion between London and Brussels, Britain has been a key part of the European project since its inception and, more importantly, shares a common historical and cultural legacy with the rest of the continent. A vote to leave the European Union is a vote by the UK to turn its back on all this and ‘go it alone’, against the advice of our friends and partners both in Europe and the wider world.

However, as you will be aware, not all Brits voted for this – far from it. Over 16 million British citizens, around 48% of those who voted, chose to remain within the EU. That number represents almost half the adult population (to say nothing of those younger than 18 whose views of their future were ignored) who stood against cutting our ties with our closest neighbours and friends. This a huge number of people who recognise all that we have accomplished together and who do not feel that being European makes them any less British, English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish.

A quarter of a century ago, with close cooperation from the British government of the day, the Maastricht Treaty created EU citizenship. This citizenship has allowed generations of Brits, just like other Europeans, to work, study and travel across the continent in a way that was never possible before. Nevertheless, all Brits are now set to lose their EU citizenship because 52% of voters have decided they want to leave the Union. In any other situation, the forced confiscation of citizenship from a minority as the result of a majoritarian decision would be regarded as a gross human rights abuse and a breach of international law.

Currently, we only enjoy EU citizenship as a result of being citizens of a member-state; under Maastricht, EU citizenship supervenes on national citizenship. Now, as a result of the referendum, I am calling on you to pool your efforts in changing the law. As part of the legal restructuring that Brexit will entail, I ask you to create a system whereby British citizens can directly apply for and be granted EU citizenship, even if the UK is no longer an EU member-state.

This is not just a matter of expediency for Brits currently living elsewhere in Europe – it is a matter of justice for all of us who voted to remain part of the EU. We are passionate Europeans, and we feel our future is as much in Europe as it is in Britain. We have been abandoned by our compatriots, and we now desperately hope that we will not be abandoned by the rest of Europe.

Allow us to remain EU citizens, and we can continue the work of building Europe’s future.


Yours, in solidarity,

James Bartholomeusz

26 June 2016

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