Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

How can people from the UK retain EU citizenship after Brexit?

It's possible, but it's not easy.

Calls for a closer, more integrated Europe have not merely been made by late-20th century cosmopolitan liberals. It was that great hero of Britain's most proudly patriotic, Sir Winston Churchill, who argued for European integration in response to the threat from Nazi Germany, proposing an idea dubbed the Declaration of Union between Great Britain and France. 

“The Franco-British Union” was his vision. He said: “Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.” Despite what the Eurosceptics say, Churchill was actually one of the founding pioneers of Europeanism. It was also Churchill who grew the United States of Europe notion in his famous 1946 Zurich speech.

However, for all our best efforts trying to cultivate and replicate a pro-liberal European culture since entering the European Economic Community in 1973, we in Britain are about to find ourselves cast aside from the rest of Europe and potentially left without immediate access to it.

As indicated in Article 8 of the Lisbon Treaty: “Every national of an [EU] Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to national citizenship and shall not replace it.” It is a formality that our freedom of movement privileges will be cut, or, at worst, terminated. Reciprocally, EU citizens themselves are leaving Britain for a more stable residency due to anxiety the Brexit process has caused about their rights.

If the government isn't able to strum up a much more pragmatic soft Brexit arrangement – similar to that of the EFTA countries – then British citizens could find themselves in an unfortunate predicament after the termination of their EU citizenship. Recent polling from Opinium suggests that more than 60 per cent of Britons are petrified at the thought.

But hypothetically speaking, could people in the UK somehow keep hold of EU citizenship?  In short, yes. But it depends on your nationality, ancestral history, wealth and academic chops. Here are some some of the ways it could be done.

Luck of the Irish

Despite being born in England to an Irish mother and a Turkish father, I was thankfully bequeathed an Irish passport at birth and I have proudly renewed it since. If you are similarly lucky to have an Irish parent, you can apply for your Irish passport – as can many of those born to parents from other EU/EEA members, thus retaining your citizenship.

However, the possibility of retaining EU citizenship through Ireland extends further. If you are from Northern Ireland, you are also able to get an Irish passport due to rules in the Good Friday Agreement entitling all citizens to one irrespective of whether you’re someone who identifies as British.

Even if neither of your parents was born in Ireland, if one of your grandparents is an Irish citizen who was born there you can also become an Irish citizen. And under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, if a child who is not an Irish citizen is adopted by an Irish citizen or a couple where either spouse is an Irish citizen, then the adopted child shall be an Irish citizen.

Studying in Europe for citizenship

Many European countries have a long history of coaxing foreign and international students to their nation firstly to study, then work and live. France, for example, would offer you citizenship after five years’ residency. If you were to study a masters, the naturalisation process would be cut down to two years.

Using a citizen-by-investment programme

You also have the option of “bribing” your way to an EU citizenship.

This isn’t by any means the cheapest or easiest way, but countries such as Malta, Spain and the Netherlands would be willing to accept your “investment” in exchange for a desirable fast-tracked route to citizenship.

Malta is currently the cheapest, requiring at least one year of residency and an investment of 1.15m euros. 

It is undoubtedly a controversial practice and is not approved by the European Commission. But it is legal – and can cost up to 5m euros depending on the member state.

Gaining citizenship through naturalisation 

Naturalisation would be the purest method through which you could gain citizenship of the European Union. This could be achieved by moving abroad and integrating yourself into another state within EU freedom of movement privileges.

Thanks to the Vienna convention, if you were to move to another nation before any official legislation relating to UK citizens' rights were to change, then you could be saved from being asked to leave.

Sweden and Finland would be your best bet – and both allow dual citizenship so you could also keep your British passport if need be.

Show Hide image

Labour’s renationalisation plans look nothing like the 1970s

The Corbynistas are examining models such as Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and John Lewis. 

A community energy company in Nottingham, a credit union in Oldham and, yes, Britain's most popular purveyor of wine coolers. No, this is not another diatribe about about consumer rip-offs. Quite the opposite – this esoteric range of innovative companies represent just a few of those which have come to the attention of the Labour leadership as they plot how to turn the abstract of one of their most popular ideas into a living, neo-liberal-shattering reality.

I am talking about nationalisation – or, more broadly, public ownership, which was the subject of a special conference this month staged by a Labour Party which has pledged to take back control of energy, water, rail and mail.

The form of nationalisation being talked about today at the top of the Labour Party looks very different to the model of state-owned and state-run services that existed in the 1970s, and the accompanying memories of delayed trains, leaves on the line and British rail fruitcake that was as hard as stone.

In John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s conference on "alternative models of ownership", the three firms mentioned were Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham, Oldham credit union and, of course, John Lewis. Each represents a different model of public ownership – as, of course, does the straightforward takeover of the East Coast rail line by the Labour government when National Express handed back the franchise in 2009.

Robin Hood is the first not-for-profit energy company set up a by a local authority in 70 years. It was created by Nottingham city council and counts Corbyn himself among its customers. It embodies the "municipal socialism" which innovative local politicians are delivering in an age of austerity and its tariffs delivers annual bills of £1,000 or slightly less for a typical household.

Credit unions share many of the values of community companies, even though they operate in a different manner, and are owned entirely by their customers, who are all members. The credit union model has been championed by Labour MPs for decades. 

Since the financial crisis, credit unions have worked with local authorities, and their supporters see them as ethical alternatives to the scourge of payday loans. The Oldham credit union, highlighted by McDonnell in a speech to councillors in 2016, offers loans from £50 upwards, no set-up costs and typically charges interest of around £75 on a £250 loan repaid over 18 months.

Credit unions have been transformed from what was once seen as a "poor man's bank" to serious and tech-savvy lenders where profits are still returned to customers as dividends.

Then there is John Lewis. The "never-knowingly undersold" department store is owned by its 84,000 staff, or "partners". The Tories have long cooed over its pledge to be a "successful business powered by its people and principles" while Labour approves of its policy of doling out bonuses to ordinary staff, rather than just those at the top. Last year John Lewis awarded a partnership bonus of £89.4m to its staff, which trade website Employee Benefits judged as worth more than three weeks' pay per person (although still less than previous top-ups).

To those of us on the left, it is a painful irony that when John Lewis finally made an entry into politics himself – in the shape of former managing director Andy Street – it was to seize the Birmingham mayoralty ahead of Labour's Sion Simon last year. (John Lewis the company remains apolitical.)

Another model attracting interest is Transport for London, currently controlled by Labour mayor Sadiq Khan. TfL may be a unique structure, but nevertheless trains feature heavily in the thinking of shadow ministers, whether Corbynista or soft left. They know that rail represents their best chance of quick nationalisation with public support, and have begun to spell out how it could be delivered.

Yes, the rhetoric is blunt, promising to take back control of our lines, but the plan is far more gradual. Rather than risk the cost and litigation of passing a law to cancel existing franchises, Labour would ask the Department for Transport to simply bring routes back in-house as each of the private sector deals expires over the next decade.

If Corbyn were to be a single-term prime minister, then a public-owned rail system would be one of the legacies he craves.

His scathing verdict on the health of privatised industries is well known but this month he put the case for the opposite when he addressed the Conference on Alternative Models of Ownership. Profits extracted from public services have been used to "line the pockets of shareholders" he declared. Services are better run when they are controlled by customers and workers, he added. "It is those people not share price speculators who are the real experts."

It is telling, however, that Labour's radical election manifesto did not mention nationalisation once. The phrase "public ownership" is used 10 times though. Perhaps it is a sign that while the leadership may have dumped New Labour "spin", it is not averse to softening its rhetoric when necessary.

So don't look to the past when considering what nationalisation and taking back control of public services might mean if Corbyn made it to Downing Street. The economic models of the 1970s are no more likely to make a comeback then the culinary trends for Blue Nun and creme brûlée.

Instead, if you want to know what public ownership might look like, then cast your gaze to Nottingham, Oldham and dozens more community companies around our country.

Peter Edwards was press secretary to a shadow chancellor, editor of LabourList and a parliamentary candidate in 2015 and 2017.