Members of an association of ‘EU Britizens’ are encouraging Britons to join them in Luxembourg to support a case seeking to win back EU citizenship rights.
Retired civil servant Alice Bouilliez’s case is listed in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for February 24.
The court’s advocate general will give his view of the case based on documents submitted by the lawyers (the case is being led pro bono by avocats Julien Fouchet and Jean-Noël Caubet-Hilloutou), EU officials, and France and Romania (these two countries expressed views on the case).
Mr Fouchet said the court often follows the advocate’s view, but they will have to wait for another hearing, around June, for the final judgment.
Mrs Bouilliez, 62, from the Gers, will be going to the court with banners and British and EU flags in February and hopes other Britons will join her to give a show of how important their citizenship rights are to them. “Right now, it’s like the feeling just before an exam, but I’m excited and happy because I believe it will go our way and we have all the right arguments lined up.
“It’s wonderful it’s got this far and is being taken so seriously.”
The lawyers are not being permitted to speak, with the decisions to be made on the paperwork, but “we think there is enough in the documents to be clear that we’ve got a very good case”, she said.
'This is a chance for the ECJ to clarify that EU citizenship is a legal reality' - Julien Fouchet, avocat
Mr Fouchet said the court has several times referred to EU citizenship – for example, in 2001 saying it had “the vocation to be the fundamental status of the member state citizens” and in 2009 that it was “a legal and political concept autonomous in respect to that of nationality”. This case will be a chance for the court to clarify that it is a “legal reality” and not just a “vocation”, he said.
He said France has asked for the case to be rejected, as it considers that Britons have lost their EU citizenship since the UK left the EU.
However, he will argue for Mrs Bouilliez, who has based her case around her lost local and EU voting rights, that it is something fundamental that should not be removed without consent where it has serious consequences on people’s rights.
Britons in the EU have, for example, also lost automatic freedom to live and work across the EU in other countries.
Those who had lost their UK voting rights after 15 years were not able to vote in the Brexit referendum and currently have no voting rights anywhere.
“France says only 44,000 Britons were struck off the voting lists, which for them isn’t very serious, and 800 councillors had to stand down,” Mr Fouchet said.
He also argues that some of the Britons’ rights related to pensions and social security are now less favourable. “They also no longer feel part of the European project, which is frustrating for them.”
He added: “The more people there are in Luxembourg in February, the more the court will see it’s an important case and that many people are concerned.”
Those wanting to give support can make contact via eubritizens.eu.