British residents in EU countries were counting on a ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to maintain the right to move freely in the European Union after Brexit. But today a Dutch court dashed their hopes, deciding that their case should not be referred to the ECJ.
The case was initiated last year by five British citizens living in the Netherlands and the Commercial Anglo-Dutch Society, represented by Dutch law firm Bureau Brandeis. They argued that EU citizenship, which is automatically granted to nationals of EU member states, is an “independent source of rights and obligations” and cannot be revoked, especially since the EU Treaty does not specify what to do about it when a country leaves the Union. As national courts can demand the ECJ to interpret EU rules, the group asked an Amsterdam court to obtain clarifications on their EU citizenship rights in this way.
In February, the Amsterdam District Court took the arguments on board and decided to submit a question to the European Court of Justice.
Through the ruling, the ECJ could have influenced Brexit negotiations. The EU and the UK agreed in December a set of rights British citizens in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK, will maintain after Brexit. But based on the current deal, British residents in the EU will to lose the automatic right to reside in the other 26 EU members states, because they will lose EU citizenship after Brexit. A different opinion by the EU Court could have changed their situation.
But the Dutch government and the City of Amsterdam appealed the decision. They contended that the case was vague, that it concerned hypothetical future situations rather than a real dispute, and it was inappropriate given that negotiations between the EU and the UK are still ongoing.
Today, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal accepted these arguments and rejected the decision to refer the question to the EU Court.
Debbie Williams, one of the claimants, commented: “This may be a setback, but we have lost a battle not the war. We shall keep fighting to preserve the freedom of movement rights of UK citizens in the EU. What is more, I am convinced that the publicity around this case has helped significantly in raising awareness of what losing these rights means to hundreds of thousands of UK citizens in the EU.” Willliams, who is also the founder of pro-EU group Brexpats Hear Our Voice (BHOV), which campaigns for the preservation of rights of British nationals in the EU, added: “We urge the UK government yet again to push our cause more strongly in the Brexit negotiations.”
Court decision in Dutch available here.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
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