Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageBritish expats urge Dutch court to protect rights after Brexit

By Jan HENNOP (AFP)     Feb 6, 2018 in World

Five British plaintiffs are urging a Dutch court to help protect the rights of "the forgotten many" after Brexit, with the tribunal set to rule Wednesday in the landmark case.

"A lot of British expats, I believe, feel a sense of injustice in the way they have been treated in the Brexit decision and now in the Brexit negotiations," said Stephen Huyton, one of those petitioning the Amsterdam court.

He and his family argue they have independent rights as EU citizens over and above holding the citizenship of any specific EU member country -- including Britain.

The case brought by Huyton, the director of a US firm who has lived in The Netherlands for the past 24 years and the other plaintiffs, could pose a far-reaching challenge.

Brexit negotiators in Brussels Tuesday resumed talks to hammer out the thorny details of Britain's divorce from the European Union, including the futures of around one million Britons living on the European continent.

The group insists their legal rights as EU citizens -- including freedom of movement -- should remain and be protected by The Netherlands even after Britain withdraws from the 28-member body on March 29, 2019.

The aim is to get the Amsterdam court "to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice for a final decision. It's as simple as that," said Huyton.

"The primary goal is to get the court to seek clarification from the ECJ as to what exactly being a European citizen means," he told AFP.

He was speaking hours before the written judgement was expected to be handed down at 1400 GMT by the court in the Dutch capital.

"There are no precedents," the group's lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm said.

"Opinions are divided. The only court that can give clarity is the ECJ, which has to explain how to turn the political mess of Brexit into a judicial solution," he said in papers filed before the Amsterdam court.

Huyton said they decided to launch the court action in The Netherlands "because its court system is quite speedy" and because its judges tend to refer matters involving the interpretation of treaties more speedily to the Luxembourg-based ECJ.

- 'Sense of injustice' -

Should the European Court indeed rule that Britons have separate implicit rights as EU citizens, it could have massive implications.

"It could also throw a spanner in the current Brexit negotiations," Huyton said.

Certain rights including the very important freedom of movement and residency may also therefore be upheld after Brexit, he added.

"A case like this will not only help to bring clarity to British citizens living on the continent, but could also help make clear exactly what the status is of EU citizens currently living in the United Kingdom."

Huyton added there was also great uncertainty for his three children, aged 24, 22 and 19 over what will happen after Brexit.

He referred to British expats as "the forgotten many", saying their wishes were ignored during the 2016 referendum as many weren't legally allowed to vote, despite still being British citizens and in many cases taxpayers.

A preliminary agreement in December between Britain and the EU sets out residency rights and benefits available to more than three million EU citizens living in Britain and another one million British nationals living in the EU.

The deal guarantees their post-Brexit rights, with family members also able to claim residence, but "as the British government has made clear -- nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," said Huyton.

More about Britain, Eu, Brexit, Politics, Netherlands
More news from