British expats in the Netherlands are waiting to find out about their fate in the European Union after Brexit.
Campaigners have asked the courts in Amsterdam to rule if expats can be EU citizens after Britain leaves the bloc.
The Dutch court has referred the decision to the European Courts of Justice, which is the court with the final say on how EU law is interpreted.
“There is much debate about what happens to UK citizens and their rights as EU citizens if and when the UK leaves the EU,” said lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, who represents the expats who brought the case.
What rights do expats have in EU?
“We hope this case will settle once and for all the issue of whether European citizenship and the accompanying rights are inalienable.
“The negotiators in Brussels all assume that the consequence of Brexit will be that British citizens living in an EU member state will lose their European citizenship. However, national and European citizenship are not necessarily linked. The European Courts of Justice has ruled before that the rights that are awarded to European citizens are autonomous,”
The challenge was mounted by campaigners for the Brexit – Hear Our Voice (BHOV) led by British expat Debbie Williams.
She says the case was started for the 46,000 British expats in the Netherlands but now stands for 1.2 million British expats across the EU.
“As has been demonstrated in recent months, what Brexit means is still extremely unclear. The lives of 1.2 million people are being manipulated as if they are pieces on a chessboard, and this case is an attempt to bring a degree of clarity to the situation,” says the group’s web site.
The case was heard in Amsterdam in January.
“We were delighted with the initial decision to refer the question to the higher court but were disappointed to learn that the Dutch state decided to launch an appeal. Our legal team will be countering the appeal,” said Williams.
“As a group, BHOV will continue to do all we can to preserve the rights of all EU citizens, not just UK citizens. We see this case as one small but significant step towards achieving a fair solution for all.”