Britons' Brexit citizenship case to be heard by EU court

FILE PHOTO - The logo of the European Court of Justice is pictured outside the main courtroom in Luxembourg January 26, 2017. Picture taken January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

AMSTERDAM/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britons dismayed by the loss of their European Union citizenship next year as a result of Brexit will have their complaints reviewed by the EU’s top court following a ruling by a Dutch judge on Wednesday.

The Amsterdam court referred the case of five British residents of the Netherlands who sought protection against potential efforts to remove them after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

The judge asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg to clarify several points, notably whether the “acquired rights” of EU citizenship could be removed by political change, against the will of those concerned.

Groups representing some 1.5 million Britons living in the other 27 EU states welcomed the chance of a hearing, although many lawyers have questioned the argument on acquired rights.

Jane Golding, who chairs the group British in Europe, said in a statement that the group was “delighted.”

“The (ECJ) has played a key role in clarifying the scope of EU citizenship and it is appropriate that it should be asked to identify when those rights end,” she said, adding that Britain and the EU should not finalise their Brexit treaty until the case has been resolved.

Both sides have pledged to preserve the rights of expatriates on either side of the new divide, although there have been complaints from some people on both sides that their situations after Brexit will be less good than before.

Reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterdam and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Leslie Adler