If you read the Daily Mail, the Daily Express or other similar rags you may well have been misled thinking that Europe hates us. It’s simply not true.
Perhaps there is a small minority in the EU parliament who are feeling a tough stance on the UK might be the way forward, but there are many reasonable politicians who despite the stupidity and recklessness of the British government risking the future of an entire nation on a narrow – advisory – referendum result (not an ‘overwhelming majority’) founded on misinformation, blatant lies and an ill-informed electorate have noticed that we, the 48%*, are being unwillingly stripped of our European citizenship.
One such man is Charles Goerens an MEP from Luxembourg, who has been widely reported (EU citizenship proposal could guarantee rights in Europe after Brexit) recently as proposing an amendment (Amendment 882 **) “calling for the establishment of a European associate citizenship for those who “feel and wish to be part of the European project, but are nationals of a former member state”.
In short, should this amendment pass through into law any UK citizen wishing to remain a European citizen, as opposed to being press-ganged into becoming a Little Englander, could potentially be granted an associate citizenship. Thus guaranteeing the continuation of the rights we currently enjoy as citizens of Europe including rights of residence, freedom of movement and representation. All are matters of huge importance to those of us who already live within the EU and appear to have been abandoned, or at best left living in limbo by an inept UK government who appear to look upon us as little more than bargaining tools in non-negotiations based on a plan they haven’t yet formed. Anyway, that’s enough on my personal opinions, lets get to the interview.
Naturally we wanted to look into this some more, and to find out something about the motives and the man behind the proposal so I requested an interview with Mr Goerens, here it is….
In general how do you personally feel about the Brexit situation?
Charles Goerens: “I am deeply shocked because we have lost a member state. The image of the European Union has suffered a lot. The European Union is weakened internally and is perceived to be even weaker from the outside.”
Regarding Amendment 882 – what was it that prompted you personally to put that forward?
Charles Goerens: For simple reasons. For us it is more than the union of member states. Above all, in my understanding, the European Union is a union of European citizens sharing the same values of tolerance, non-discrimination and solidarity for instance; and the new associate European Citizenship is for those adopted citizens to stay as close as possible to the EU.
Reading the documentation we see Amendment 883 refers to the right to vote in our country of residence, presumably the two amendments are inherently linked (I personally have long held the belief that we should have the right to vote for the national government of the country in which we are habitually resident, and would be more than happy to relinquish my UK vote).
Charles Goerens: “The two amendments are complimentary. Amendment 882 goes beyond 883, because 882 foresees a new citizenship on a voluntary basis and 883 refers to the rights of all the EU citizens living in one of the 27 member states. I can imagine that both amendments could be adopted. As far as 882 is concerned, it is an amendment aimed at offering people the possibility of an associate EU citizenship on a purely voluntary basis. Amendment 883, on the other hand, refers to a situation where the EU decides, or could decide, to grant all the EU citizens living abroad the electoral rights to participate in all the elections of their country of residence, regardless if they are provincial, regional or national elections. ”
Yes that makes a lot of sense. Much of the UK mainstream media is forecasting that reactions from the 27 are almost certain to be punitive? The feel of it is “Europe is going to punish us.” Your amendment suggests quite the opposite, that there are a number of MEPs who might be concerned about the rights of the 48% being removed without their will; those people who feel like European Citizens yet feel like Brexit is pulling away their rights for something they haven’t supported.
Charles Goerens: “Well, in my view, we should build bridges, not walls. We have a common interest to define the relationship between the European Union and the UK. It is, and I am very outspoken on this, it is in nobody’s interest to widen the gap between the European Union and the UK. Above all, I do not see the reason why millions of citizens who have been supporting EU values and campaigning to keep their rights since the early 1970s should be stripped of those rights. Yes, I assume we are indeed inspired to tackle Brexit in a constructive way.”
“In my view we should try and avoid a division between UK Citizens living in Britain and those living in other member states of the European Union. My amendment aims to prevent all kinds of discrimination between them. I know there is a request from UK Citizens living in the 27 member states to keep all their rights. But on the other hand, that could create a new discrimination between them and those living within the United Kingdom.”
How much support have you received so far for this amendment and which direction is that support coming from?
Charles Goerens: “More than 90 per cent of the reactions from UK Citizens are positive, you could even say enthusiastic. There are very few hostile messages and no personal attacks directed at me.”
That’s good. We’ve spoken to Gina Miller in the past who since the High Court ruling has received all kinds of threats, including from some people who’ve gone as far as death threats.
Charles Goerens: “Yes, and I can not encourage any attacks of this sort.”
Many of our readers are British Citizens in Spain and we have friends in France, Germany, all across Europe. It’s a complicated thing when we’ve paid into the local system. We’ve paid for things like pensions. We own property. We run businesses. We have whole lives abroad. What happens if your amendment doesn’t come to fruition. Is the Vienna Convention enough to save us (I know I’m being very dramatic here) from being sent back to the UK?
Charles Goerens: “Well, that’s pure speculation. I don’t know the outcome of future legislation. But what I can see so far is strong support from UK citizens who are concerned and disappointed by Brexit. I am more positive. I expect that the UK and the European Union will be negotiating later. I hope that I am able to contribute to the creation of a positive climate in which these negotiations can later on take place and yes that’s a political process and I try to promote the vision, together with my colleagues, in order to have a positive impact on the political situation. But it’s obvious that we cannot act in a way that people are stripped of their social rights for a prolonged period of time.”
883 is great for us as UK Citizens but are there any things coming to protect the EU Citizens that live in the UK who, in my view, are getting a very raw deal at the moment? What protection is there for EU Citizens living in the UK?
Charles Goerens: “I think it is part of the process for all parties to act in a respectful way in order to get a beneficial outcome in the end. I cannot imagine that we would provide EU Associate Citizenship to one member state and not to another. I think we have to evolve in a positive direction and it is in everybody’s interests to further act in the spirit of solidarity. In my view, the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU should be as close as possible.
We’ve watched the High Court Judgement and the Supreme Court Judgement has yet to come. Do you think there’s a possibility that Article 50 might not happen?
Charles Goerens: Well the Conservative Party has the strong majority and Article 50, I am sure, will be triggered eventually – with or without the consent of your Parliament.
I hope that’s not the case. I’d like to see Parliament stand up… … …
Charles Goerens: “I hope so too, but as far as I can see, after having had exchanges of views with British MEPs, it does not seem like a realistic perspective.”
Some reports have suggested a fee for associate citizenship. Now I’m probably very early to ask that question, but have any numbers been discussed?
Charles Goerens: “Well, yes, it is very early. Associate citizenship is subject to personal choice. Concerning the technicalities of implementing this idea, it’s too early to make any statement. As far as I see, people are not discouraged by the fact that a fee would be applicable.”
Is there anything additional you’d like to say to, or any advice you can offer, British citizens living in the EU or EU citizens living in the UK in terms of the situation generally?
Charles Goerens: “I think it is important for everybody to contribute to a positive climate for the future negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. If I can offer any advice, please don’t promote any position aimed at further dividing us. Let’s take the initiative to support motions aiming at preserving the maximum of citizens’ rights and let’s try to avoid a Déjà-vu situation.”
Finally, I’ll totally understand if you don’t want to or can’t answer this, what do you think has gone wrong with British politics? It is difficult for someone like me, who is very left of centre, to see how far right politics in the UK has become.
Charles Goerens: “Well, I am deeply concerned by populism. China is ruled by a dictator. Russia is ruled by a dictator. The United States will be ruled by populists and I think this new situation, which nobody expected, is a source of trouble.”
“It’s good to have a stable European Union focussed on values. I am so staggered and deeply disappointed by the way the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, managed the Brexit crisis. At the very beginning of the process, when Brexit became part of the public discourse in the United Kingdom, he faced a party-internal dispute, which then moved to a national crisis and later on to a European crisis. It’s up to political leaders to create a climate in which you can exchange arguments and not negative passions. That, in my opinion, is what went wrong regarding the former Prime Minister’s choices. It was not the right moment to organise a national referendum. In my view, if you have a key-issue linked to values like tolerance and solidarity, respect of minorities and so on… then you have a codex obliging political leaders to act respectfully. You should never abandon this line of thinking. What I would like to say is, yes, I am deeply disappointed by the way Cameron managed the crisis as well as by the protest contributions and decisions made by the leader of the Labour Party. If they had been a little bit more active, I think the United Kingdom would have said no to Brexit to a much larger extent.”
Who knows what’s going to happen in the future? It’s pretty clear the British government don’t have a clue, so what chance do the rest of us have of getting our heads around it all whichever side of the debate we’re on!
Whether it’s a hard-Brexit, soft-Brexit, or no-Brexit I am glad that there are people like Charles Goerens within the EU attempting to heal the divides and look after the interests of those of us who don’t wish to be undemocratically stripped of our rights.
* “Support for the EU on the rise since Brexit vote … even in the UK” (source: The Guardian 21st November 2016)
** The text of Amendment 882
Motion for a resolution
Paragraph 37 a (new)
Motion for a resolution
Advocates to insert in the Treaties
a European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former Member State; offers these associate citizens the rights of freedom of movement and to reside on its territory as well as being represented in the
Parliament through a vote in the European elections on the European lists.