Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

EU citizenship and withdrawals from the union: How inevitable is the radical downgrading of rights?


This chapter is about EU citizenship and the eventual withdrawal of Member States from the European Union. It thus does not concern itself with the issue of secessions of territories from the Member States as such, which result in leaving a newly-formed state outside (or inside) the European Union - a matter meticulously analysed in the literature already. A number of interesting issues arise, however, even when we look, as the editor has asked me to do, only at the citizenship issues related to the Member States planning to say goodbye to the journey towards an unknown destination. This is particularly true when the interplay between the national and the supranational levels of citizenship is considered dynamically. This chapter uses one specific Member State as an example on a number of occasions: the United Kingdom. The discussion below, although written before 23 June 2016 and updated with a post scriptum following the Brexit referendum outcome, is thus as much connected to the UK specifically as it is of general application: the conclusions reached in this text are not at all country-specific. It is this possibility to extrapolate these to the situation in any other seceding Member State, while simultaneously nodding in the direction of the cause of the conversation about the withdrawals we are having, which makes me comfortable with the insistent use of the British example. The key conclusion is very simple: the obvious loss of an overwhelming number of rights by the citizens of the withdrawing state or states (unless otherwise negotiated) notwithstanding, EU citizenship as such cannot possibly affect, legally speaking, the regulation of withdrawals: Article 50 TEU does not contain any EU citizenship-related conditions and reading them into the text would not be legally sound: EU citizenship is the crucial part of the EU package, the ‘fundamental status of the nationals of the Member States’ in EU law. To impose it - and all the supranational law which comes with it - on a people of a Member State, which has just voted precisely to leave the Union, would be an aberration of common sense since it will be a direct attack on the letter and purpose of Article 50 TEU, which ultimately leaves the precise conditions of withdrawal up to negotiators.


Secession from a Member State and Withdrawal from the European Union: Troubled Membership


Dimitry Kochenov (Netherlands)

Article meta

Country / region covered

Population studied

Year of Publication

Source type