The Brexit negotiations, once they eventually get under way, are going to be very entertaining. Today’s news is that the EU team will be demanding that, when the UK is no longer a member of the EU, citizens of EU countries living here should be guaranteed EU rights by the British government and they should be permitted to enforce those rights by going to the European Court of Justice.
In practice, of course, existing EU laws which are currently in force in the UK are likely to continue, at least for a while, to be part of our law. But new laws emanating from Brussels will not, unless we choose to imitate them, apply in the UK. So, what the EU is proposing is that such new laws should apply to EU citizens living in the UK, though not to British citizens, and the UK courts should enforce them (with a right of appeal to the European Court of Justice).
Here is a simple example. Suppose the EU decides to introduce a new working time directive providing that no one is allowed to work more than 30 hours a week. A company employs 100 people. 90 of them are British citizens, so unaffected by the directive. But 10 are EU citizens. If the company continues to require those 10 employees to work, say, 40 hours a week, they will be able to go to a British court to demand that their working hours should be reduced with no reduction in wages. If the British court does not accede to their application they will be able to go to the European Court of Justice to enforce their rights.
Bizarre in the extreme.
This proposal, I hasten to say, has nothing to do with the other one, to which I can see no objection, that British citizens who are so besotted by the EU’s constitutional arrangements that they wish to continue to be EU citizens as well as British, should be permitted to have dual nationality. Just as those British citizens who are also citizens of the Republic of Ireland are not guaranteed, by Britain, Irish rights while living in the UK, so these British citizens who choose to remain EU citizens after Brexit will continue, while resident in the UK, to be subject only to UK laws. If, for instance, the EU were, in a desperate attempt to rival NATO with a common defence policy, to introduce conscription for EU citizens, the dual nationality people would be safe while remaining in the UK, but, the second they nipped off to their second homes in Brittany, they would be liable to be called up for military service.
Anyway, one does wonder about the sanity of the EU negotiating team if today’s news is typical of what they will be proposing.