EU states mull giving EU citizenship to UK students after Brexit - Renzi

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures as he leaves the EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British students enrolled in universities of European Union countries may be granted EU citizenship under a plan discussed by EU leaders after Britain’s vote to leave the EU, Italy’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

“If a British student decides to spend two, three, four years in a European university, we are studying now if it is possible to give him a European passport (..),” Matteo Renzi told reporters in Brussels after a meeting of European socialist leaders where the initiative was discussed.

Renzi said the plan was also on the table at a meeting he attended on Monday in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The move could be welcomed by British students on the continent who are uncertain about their future rights in EU countries after Britain’s June 23 EU referendum.

An opinion poll taken shortly before the referendum found 73 percent of eligible voters under age 25 in favour of remaining in the EU. The eventual national margin on June 23 was 52 to 48 percent in favour of leaving.

Renzi said that no decision has been made yet on whether the plan can be carried out. “For the moment nothing is sure,” he said on his way to a European summit in Brussels where the leaders of all EU countries will discuss on Tuesday and Wednesday the implications of the Brexit referendum.

Legal hurdles might make the plan impossible, though. Granting EU citizenship to British students may force EU countries to do the same with students from other non-EU countries to avoid illegal discrimination.

Renzi said the plan was under discussion because Brexit could disadvantage Britain’s younger generation. “We are really sad for the new generation, particularly the new generation who lives and studies in the UK, but this is democracy.”

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Heinrich