The European parliament is to review a proposal for an associate EU citizenship open to nationals of a country that has left the union but who want to stay part of the European project and retain some of their EU rights.
The plan, tabled by a liberal MEP from Luxembourg, could mean British citizens who opt for the new status would be able to continue to travel freely and live on the continent – rights that may no longer be automatic after Brexit.
“It’s clear the UK is divided, and many people want to remain part of Europe,” said Charles Goerens, who proposed amendment 882 to a draft report by the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee on possible changes to “the current institutional set-up” of the European Union.
“The idea is simply to guarantee those who want it some of the same rights they had as full EU citizens, including the right of residence in the EU, and to be able to vote in European elections and be represented by an MEP.”
Last month, the Guardian reported a huge rise in the number of Britons seeking citizenship in other EU countries, with at least 2,800 Britons across 18 countries applying to secure their post-Brexit status in the first eight months of 2016 – an increase of more than 250% on numbers recorded in 2015.
The amendment, for which Goerens hopes to find wide parliamentary backing and which MEPs could vote on early in the new year, proposes 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”.
The amendment suggests that associate citizenship should “offer 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”.
The UK government’s insistence on control of EU immigration as one of the top priorities makes it highly likely that under a future reciprocal Brexit deal, British citizens will no longer enjoy the automatic right to travel freely, live and work across the continent.
Goerens said he had been taken aback by the level of support he had received for the proposal. “This has clearly struck a chord,” he said. “A lot of people from Britain have got in touch with me to ask what they can do to make sure it happens.”
The suggestion follows calls on the government by the German Green party to fasttrack the applications of Britons wishing to become German citizens in the light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The party said Germany should “send a signal that Britons belong to Europe and to Germany” by allowing the “swift and straightforward naturalisation” of British citizens, adding that young Britons in particular living on the continent “need a clear perspective that they can stay”.