Luxembourg MEP Goerens wants ‘associate citizenship’ for Brits after Brexit

Former Luxembourg Minister and now Member of European Parliament Charles Goerens (DP) called for a European associate citizenship status for British nationals after Brexit at a press conference on Monday morning.

Criticizing both the British government for its lack of plan or lack of transparency, and the EU for its lethargy and stand-still stance, Goerens insisted that it was more than timely to start thinking about what Brexit should look like from a European perspective.

Advocating a close relationship with Great-Britain that follows the model of countries such as Switzerland, Norway or Iceland, Goerens and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in European Parliament, of which the DP is a member, want to actively prepare a way forward.

Goerens indicated that conversations with British MEPs point to a comfortable majority for Brexit in the British Parliament, respecting the outcome of the referendum. European liberals are therefore planning for the 2-year exit procedure to begin early 2017.

European associate citizenship

Guy Verhofstadt, chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, has been appointed as the European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator. The former Belgian Prime Minister will work with Michel Barnier, who is leading the negotiations for the European commission. Neither the outspoken Verhofstadt, nor the European Parliament seem to be planning on letting Brexit take its course without their influence.

Especially given an increasingly challenging international context, the liberals think that active measures are needed. A parliamentary initiative, to which Verhofstadt was appointed as rapporteur, considers possible evolutions and adjustments of the current institutional set up of the European Union. In other words, the EP wants to amend the treaties in order to be better prepared for future challenges.

With Brexit being part of these challenges, the EP initiative proposes an “associate status” for the United Kingdom, thus respecting the outcome of the referendum while keeping the country close.

Related to this, Goerens proposed an amendment introducing European associate citizenship “for those who feel and wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former member state”.

The right of freedom of movement and to reside on EU territory should be maintained thanks to this associate citizenship, bringing with it not only rights, but also obligations such as the commitment to European values. This associate citizenship could be optional and could only be obtained by introducing a formal request.

At the same time, the authors of this amendment are asking for reciprocity from the UK. Goerens considers that the EU and especially Luxembourg have a strong interest in allowing for such a scheme for British nationals as an important work force, for example in its finance industry.