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Two French views on Brexit: Should the Brits stay or go?

Here are two opposing French views between an MP who urges Britain to remain in the EU and a political analyst and columnist who wants them to leave.

Two French views on Brexit: Should the Brits stay or go?

Here are two conflicting French views on Brexit. 

Herve Mariton is an MP for the centre-right Les Republicains party and a candidate to become his party's presidential nominee.

Dear British friends,

You will vote on June 23rd to decide if you leave or remain in the European Union, a decision that will be essential for both of us for many years ahead. This is why I found it useful to speak to you.

I can already hear the sarcasm: “another French MP who wants to give us lessons from the height of his arrogance! ” Be reassured, it is not the case. I'm not here to tell you that the seven plagues of Egypt will befall you if you leave the European Union, that your economy will be devastated, that the City will be in ashes or that your nation will be marginalized. Whatever happens, you are a great people.

If I speak to you, it is not to scare you, but with affection and interest. Just to say simply and sincerely how it is desirable that you stay with us.

I have always been inspired by British political and intellectual life. My political motto is a quote from Benjamin Disraeli: “I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good, a Radical to remove all That is bad”. Preserve and reform, again and again: it is the task of all great political leaders.

This applies in particular to the European Union which must be profoundly reformed and simplified, in strict application of the principle of subsidiarity. Whatever issue can efficiently remain local should remain local. I know that you are legitimately attached to this principle. If you leave the EU, then you will isolate your allies on the continent who, like you, want to redirect the EU towards more efficiency.

The European Union must focus its action where it brings real added value. This is particularly the case with the common market, the first free trade area in the world.

Without you, who will defend a free trade agreement, fairly negotiated, with the United States? As the only candidate for the primary for the French presidential election to be really in favour of free trade, I need allies like you on this matter.

You are right to defend your interests in Europe, and I regret that past and current French governments have not, for our own sake, followed your example. Instead of criticizing the famous “British rebate”, they would do better to try and negotiate a discount as well and to further monitor the European budget.

You made the sovereign choice not to enter the euro zone, no one should dispute it. This fully justifies that you do not have the same objectives of economic integration and convergence that members of the eurozone, including France. This does not mean you are relegated to a second division, but simply that the idea of ​​ Europe “à la carte” is fruitful. A Europe of freedom, not a Europe of constraint.

Dear friends, stay within the European Union. Let us pursue together the task initiated by your Prime Minister David Cameron during his negotiations with the European Union to make it simpler and more democratic. There is still much work to do. 

In conclusion, let me quote a great architect of Franco-British friendship, Talleyrand: “Yes and No words are the shortest and the easiest to pronounce but those that require the most consideration.” Keep this in mind for June 23rd.

Long live to the Franco-British friendship. Vive la France and God Save the Queen!

Journalist Christophe Barbier is the editor of the centre-left leaning newspaper l'Express. 

Photo: AFP

I am for the English departure of the EU.

I think it would be better for them and better for us. Better for them because it’s clear they have an identity that doesn’t tie them to the European continent. And even if all the economic and financial reasons advocate for them to stay in the Union, the profound political reasons argue for a departure. 

This won’t make them the enemies of Europe or strangers to Europe. It will just make them the English, make them partners. 

Of course this will pose them a whole host of problems, and for Ireland and Scotland. These need to be dealt with one at a time. Scotland for example has designs to completely integrate itself into Europe as an independent nation, but that’s another battle.

This Brexit is also a good thing for Europe, because it will force us to no longer think about Europe as a spineless territory that can expand infinitely only for commercial reasons, but to once again see Europe as a political project.

A political project, that’s to say, federal directions. We need to start with those who share the Euro and there really integrate our politics, have the same budget, the same educational policy, the same social ambitions, the same economic strategies, to make one large European nation around the Franco-German nucleus.

And having of course, for each of the nations that compose this nation, respect for identity, traditions, and models. But we must share strategy, to have it in common, starting with the Franco-German duo. 

This start of a new story, this start of a new Europe, is set for June 23rd. If the Brits choose to leave, then a new Europe will be possible.

If they choose to stay, it will be necessary to keep going with new rules. It will be difficult, it will be painful, it won’t be understandable. Whatever the future of Europe, whatever the result of June 23rd, this makes imminent the role and the work of the future leaders of Germany and France.

Will Hollande be re-elected next year? Will Merkel? Or instead will we have two other men or women at the head of our countries? It will be up to them to assume this responsibility. 

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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