London seems to be more popular than ever despite the current Brexit uncertainty, with 2018 bringing in more travel connections to the capital. Just recently, media outlets all over the world were reporting the first direct flight connecting Australia and Europe via a 17-hour Perth-London route provided by Qantas Airways Ltd. Earlier this year, Eurostar also announced a London to Amsterdam train route which has led to questions on passport controls between the UK and the Netherlands and how freely citizens of both countries can move from one location to the other.
Although the United Kingdom has triggered Article 50, negotiations are still underway to strike a deal between the UK and the EU. In the meantime, the UK has not yet withdrawn EU membership status and this means that UK citizens maintain their EU citizenship status and rights granted under Article 9 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) and Article 20 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) – including the freedom of movement.
In the midst of all this, the Rechtbank Amsterdam (« the Amsterdam Courts ») posed two questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 7 February 2018, which can be found translated below:
- Does the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU automatically lead to the loss of EU citizenship of [United Kingdom] nationals and thus to the elimination of rights and freedoms deriving from EU citizenship, if and in so far as the negotiations between the European Council and the United Kingdom are not otherwise agreed?; and
- If the answer to the first question is in the negative, should conditions or restrictions be imposed on the maintenance of the rights and freedoms to be derived from EU citizenship?
At first glance it would make logical sense that the withdrawal of an EU Member State of nationality would lead to automatic loss of EU citizenship, since Article 9 and Article 20 expressly state that the condition for acquisition of EU citizenship is being a national of a Member State. However, academics argue that the same articles only detail conditions for acquisition of citizenship, and not the loss/retention of such status.
The ECJ will have to make a tough decision, and even if its judgment errs towards loss of citizenship, the second question posed by the Amsterdam Courts still means that the ECJ will have to rethink the fundamental meaning of EU citizenship.