Shattering the Concept of EU Citizenship? The Potential Impact of Brexit and Potential Secession of Catalonia on EU Citizenship

In: Baltic Yearbook of International Law Online
Christoph Schewenull

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In 2020, Brexit dominated the political agenda of the EU for its considerable consequences. One important aspect, however, has surprisingly been neglected: the question what Brexit means to the concept of EU citizenship.

Apart from the specific relevance for citizens, the effects of Brexit on rights granted under EU citizenship are of importance for the abstract concept of EU citizenship. Differently from market freedoms – which are intrinsically linked to the market, where workers as economic actors may be constantly affected by the changing economic policies of their national States and of their trade partners – EU citizenship also has a unique political and ideological basis and hence partially follows different aims. Its concept fundamentally differs, as it is intended to establish a bond existing beyond the market and – by attributing to EU citizens a fundamental status – is directly addressed to citizens as citizens, not as economic actors. The perspective of a disorderly Brexit with the consequence of Article 50 (3) teu, that “[…] the Treaties cease to apply […]”, depriving EU/ UK citizens of all corresponding rights against their will, would mean a severe setback to this concept and thus expose it as a hollow ideology. This message, however, would not only concern citizens who lose these rights but would, moreover, affect the entire concept in the EU27.

While being raised in the context of Brexit, this aspect goes beyond, given that the same question is raised in the context of potential secessions from EU Member States and the fate of their citizens, for instance Catalunya where Catalan citizens might immediately be stripped of EU citizenship whether they would have opted for Catalan independence or not.

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