Possibilities for keeping EU citizenship after leaving EU set out in new report by Swansea University researchers

As formal Brexit negotiations got underway in Brussels earlier this week, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans published a new report written by Swansea University academics that explores how UK citizens could retain EU citizenship after the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

The report, entitled, The Feasibility of Associate EU Citizenship for UK nationals post-Brexit, was prepared for Jill Evans MEP by a team of Swansea researchers, led by Professor Volker Roeben of the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law.


The study was launched in the European Parliament on Tuesday 20 June, where the researchers presented their research findings to key decision makers from the European Commission and the European Parliament in Brussels.

The report explores a series of possibilities for the UK and the EU to come to an agreement that would protect the citizenship rights of UK citizens, as well as considering a new status of 'associate citizenship'. The report also examines how the Welsh Government could use its powers to protect the rights of citizens.

Key rights that come with EU citizenship:

  • You can live anywhere in the EU.
  • You can work anywhere in the EU.
  • You can train or study anywhere under the same conditions as nationals.
  • You can receive necessary healthcare in any EU country.
  • You cannot be discriminated against.
  • You are entitled to the protection of the consular authorities of any other EU country.

Jill Evans MEP (pictured below) said: "This report is an important contribution to the debate around UK citizens retaining their EU citizenship, or having the right to become associate EU citizens.

Jill Evans MEP"Many people in Wales still identify strongly as Welsh European and are horrified at the thought of losing their EU citizenship, with all the benefits it brings. I have received hundreds of emails from constituents who rightly feel that it is unfair that their rights are stripped away from them against their will.

"Protecting people's rights should come first in the negotiations. We need guarantees not only on residency rights, but also on citizenship. People should not have their EU citizenship taken away from them against their will. It is not inevitable.

Other options exist and this report presents them in detail.

"On the EU-27 side, there is a lot of support in principle for the idea of 'associate citizenship', and an unwavering commitment to securing the rights of citizens. The European Parliament's resolution proposes to "examine how to mitigate [the loss of citizens' rights] within the limits of Union primary law", and the European Commission has insisted that the question of citizens' rights be a top priority in the negotiations. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief negotiator, has been vocally supportive of UK citizens retaining the same rights as they currently enjoy under EU law. The research I am presenting to key decision makers today shows that there is indeed a way to mitigate the loss of citizens' rights, and proposes a way forward."

Professor Volker Roeben added: “The first option the report proposes can be called “Continuity Union Citizenship”. This continuity reflects the state of European Union law post the Treaty of Lisbon, whereby Union citizenship is the fundamental status of individuals that cannot be taken away. Thus, nothing in the status quo would change as the result of Brexit, neither for the Union of citizens of British nationality on the territory of the Union nor for the Union citizens of EU27 nationality in the UK. EU and UK action would clarify the existing legal situation, even if not strictly necessary.

“This continuity relates to citizenship free movement rights that have been exercised or will have been exercised at the time the UK withdrawal becomes effective. The dormant rights of those residing in their own Member State of withdrawal are different in that no legal situation has been created yet to continue. Continuity also reflects the state of international law, namely Article 70 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

“There is, however, a reading of European Union law and Article 70 of the Convention that the exit of a Member State pursuant to Article 50 on Treaty of European Union extinguishes all rights of individuals created by the Founding Treaties. If one were to adopt that reading, then European Union law and international law would at least demand that a treaty be negotiated on Associate Union Citizenship, which the report discusses as an alternative model. In this second case, the status that emerges as Associate Citizenship and the bundle of rights that go with it will have to be defined. EU action would have constitutive effect.  Whether there should be any distance from the bundle of rights that come with full Citizenship is a political question”. 

Read the executive summary of the report here.