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EU citizenship?

November 12, 2016 8:52 AM
By Stuart Bonar in Liberal Democrat Voice

Since the vote to leave the European Union back in June, many of my friends have suddenly developed a keen interest in their Irish ancestry. Others have already bagged a German passport, a Cypriot passport, and permanent residency in Belgium. Everywhere, anyone with a parent or grandparent from elsewhere in Europe is clambering aboard a lifeboat out of Brexit Britain. Some of us however aren't able to contribute to the big, post-referendum spike in applications to become new Danes, Italians and Swedes.

I was giving this a lot of thought last month. Sure, I want to keep my right to live, work, travel, study, retire, even start a business across the EU with the minimum of bureaucratic fuss and bother, but it's more than that. I am a European. I feel it in my bones. I don't want my EU citizenship ripped from my hands. I want to keep it.

A thought popped into my head. A solution that would allow those who wanted to leave to do so, whilst allowing those who feel they are EU citizens as much as British citizens to remain.

Currently, individuals are only EU citizens if they are nationals of an EU member state. If the UK is no longer in the EU, we are no longer EU citizens. But why not allow people from departing member states to become EU citizens directly, out of choice? You'd have to opt in, make a public declaration of support for the EU (like people adopting new nationalities frequently have to do), and face a citizenship test too. We'd become joint British/EU dual nationals.

This solution would do something that the UK Government seems uninterested in doing, namely trying to find a way forward that works for as many people as possible - not just forcing through the agenda of some of the country at the expense of everyone else.

I set up a new blog just so I could get the idea out there. It has been visited way over 100,000 times, it's had over 500 comments (almost exclusively positively), and 13,000 people have clicked on the link at the end of the post to sign up in support. I also blogged about it this week on an English-language Swedish website.

What's in it for the rest of the EU? Well, a big member state is leaving. There is a risk that the EU's 12 stars will look to be setting not rising. That the whole idea is on the wane. With Putin in the Kremlin and Trump in the White House, Europe needs to stick together and the EU needs to work.

What better way to put a bit of zip and zing into the idea of the EU than having ecstatic Brits waving their new EU passports for the TV cameras, like Apple Store customers on the day a new iPhone is released?

The EU has a flag, an anthem, citizenship. Many pro-Europeans like me are the first people who believe in all that who are also having it stripped from us. This is the moment for Europe to be brave and bold, to show it cares about the people who care about it.

And it is not outlandish. As reported in the Sun, the Independent, and London's Evening Standard, a Liberal MEP - Charles Goerens - is pushing for it in the European Parliament. So, if you agree, read the idea in full in my original blog post, and sign up here.

* Stuart Bonar was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate in Plymouth Moor View.