Keep EU citizenship after Brexit says Plaid Cymru

Credit: PA, Britta Pedersen

Plaid Cymru says that British people should be allowed to keep hold of EU citizenship allowing them to travel, live and work freely in Europe even after the UK leaves the European Union.

The party has written to the Prime Minister urging her to use Brexit talks to negotiate continuing citizenship agreements with the EU or to develop a new model of 'Associate European Citizenship.'

Ahead of a debate that Plaid is leading in the House of Commons later, it's published expert legal advice arguing that 'it would be illegal under both European law and international law, for citizens to be stripped of their EU citizenship.'

Brexit spokesperson Hywel Williams said:

Leaving the European Union need not necessitate stripping our own citizens of their European citizenship. The UK allowed Irish citizens to keep their UK citizenship after independence – the UK can seek to secure the same deal in its exit from the EU.

Our European citizenship is intrinsic to our European identity. I am European – a Welsh European, and no government, no state and no Brexiteer should be allowed to take that away from me or anyone else.

The Prime Minister needs to make continued EU citizenship a part of her negotiating position, so that all of us and all of our children can continue to benefit from the invaluable opportunities, rights, protections and benefits that our European citizenship offers us. I sincerely hope that Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour colleagues join with Plaid Cymru today to send a strong message to Theresa May’s government.

– Hywel Williams MP, Plaid Cymru

Plaid MPs think their debate could lead to a vote and although it wouldn't be binding it could mean a defeat for the UK Government which has a policy of abstaining on opposition day debates because it lacks a majority in the Commons.

A UK Government spokesperson says that leaving the EU will mean relinquishing EU citizenship and that there will be new arrangements for travel and work.

The EU treaty provisions state that only citizens of EU Member States are able to hold EU citizenship. Therefore, when the UK ceases to be a member of the European Union, British nationals will no longer hold EU citizenship unless they hold dual nationality with another EU Member State.

However, we know that in the future, many UK nationals will wish to continue to travel, live and work within the European Union, just as EU citizens will still wish to do so in the UK. We look forward to discussing our future relationship with the European Union, one which will work in the interest of both the UK and the EU.

– UK Government spokesperson

Supporters of Brexit say that by focussing on an attempt to keep hold of EU citizenship, Plaid has demonstrated that it's 'hasn't quite grasped why people voted to leave the European Union.'

Matthew MacKinnon, Director of the Centre for Welsh Studies think tank says Plaid is clinging to 'a vision of a Europe without borders [which] is now a minority, fringe view.'

Plaid Cymru’s opposition day debate just goes to show that the party still hasn’t quite grasped why people voted to leave the European Union. One of the key concerns for people was freedom of movement. The people of Wales voted to take back control of their borders.

A points-based system would be a much more ethical way to treat potential migrants, not discriminating on nationality as our current system does. But focusing on letting people into the country based on what industries lack skilled workers.

This system will also give us the opportunity to let wages naturally rise and not be held down due to an oversupply of non skilled labour. This will see Wales benefit more than most other regions of the UK, due to the fact Wales has a large number of people in low paid, manual work.

Plaid Cymru must accept that every poll conducted shows that the people of Wales want a controlled immigration system and that their vision of a Europe without borders is now a minority, fringe view.

– Matthew MacKinnon, Director, Centre for Welsh Studies