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BREXIT

Brexit road-tripper: ‘It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose’

Brit Andy Pardy quit his job to undertake an epic odyssey across Europe in order to write ‘Stop Brexit’ with the resulting GPS route. Having recently concluded his more than 35,000-kilometre journey across 27 European nations, The Local caught up again with ‘The rogue consultant’ and his ode to freedom of movement.

Brexit road-tripper: 'It has made me appreciate what Europe has to offer and what we have to lose'
Andy Pardy arrives at Trebarwith Strand in Cornwall after the first 1,522 kilometres of his epic journey. Photo: Andy Pardy

When we last spoke to Andy Pardy, he was in Greece and about to continue driving north, a route that would eventually spell the word ‘Brexit’ when displayed on a map with GPS coordinates. 

“For the letter ‘X’ I drove from Mt Olympus to Berlin, then onto the outskirts of Warsaw and back down into the Croatian mountains,” Pardy, now back in the UK, told The Local. The ‘X’ alone required a 3,036-kilometre drive. 

Pardy had already driven the route that would spell the word ‘Stop’ through the UK, Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. 

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Editor's note: Obviously the EU's freedom of movement is about a lot more than cross-border travel, which for Britons might soon mean more paperwork. Make sure to sign up for our Europe & You newsletter for a weekly digest of what's at stake as Britain gets closer to the exit. 

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The curious story of why this British management consultant decided to throw in his job in the UK and undertake a last European tour, armed with nothing but a Volkswagen van, a GPS tracker and a passion for Europe, has captivated the minds of media worldwide. 

“After the Brexit vote I felt powerless. I haven't been able to participate or assist and I just wanted to do something,” Pardy told The Local in September this year.

So Pardy decided to traverse the continent he has known since he was a child (he grew up in Germany) for what he labelled a ‘last European tour’ to highlight the privilege that is freedom of movement. 

The man with a van, who was joined by his girlfriend Katy for the latter part of the journey, saw mountain ranges in Scandinavia, Slovakia, Slovenia, France, Spain and Croatia, “so it was nice to see Mt. Blanc, Europe’s highest peak,” says Pardy. Katy was subjected to equivalent beauty. Her three-day birthday trip took in Lake Bled in Slovenia, Lake Iseo in Italy and Chamonix at the feet of Mt Blanc.

Yet the highlights were so many, says Pardy. Romania was “a hidden gem”; mountain ranges in Slovenia and Croatia revealed landscapes Pardy “had never imagined”; Scandinavia was full of charm too. He even managed to stop in Munich for Oktoberfest.

Pardy is the captain of the story although his van may well be the unsung hero. “It never broke down and never didn’t start,” says Pardy, even though the vehicle covered more than 900 kilometres on rough roads on tough days. 

Pardy’s journey took him through most of Europe’s mountain ranges. “I feel like I know Europe better,” says Pardy, who has criss-crossed 26-EU nations in the last three months, with some understatement. “I thought I knew Europe. Seeing some of the farthest-flung corners has shown me what Europe has to offer. Even though we don’t know to what extent freedom of movement will be curtailed, it is very clear what we stand to lose,” adds Pardy, whose journey has filled more than nine pages of Google with media clips, including this Arte documentary.

His journey may appear inherently political but Pardy says more than anything it was personal. “It wasn’t to stir division,” says Pardy, who has received hundreds, if not thousands of messages of support along his route. Despite sleeping in a tin van and living on a diet of tin cans, Pardy says every corner of Europe was worth it. 

Would he be willing to do it again if he’d made a typo? “I would do it all again tomorrow,” says Pardy, adding the caveat that he’d like to top up on fresh fruit and a few good nights of sleep before ever trying such an odyssey again. 

And the main lesson learnt? “The adventure has highlighted what is at stake,” says Pardy. 

You can learn more about Andy’s journey on his Instagram account

 

After 27 countries, 35,000 km and 45 stress-free EU border crossings, my Last European Tour is finally complete ???? • I have created a piece of #GPSart that covers 18,231.7km and spells two words; STOP BREXIT. The full route and gps records can be found attached (or at LocaToWeb.com – Search ‘The Rogue Consultant’) • Europe has exceeded all expectations. The support and kindness of all those met along the way, as well as the 1000s of messages received online has been mind-blowing. Thank you all ? • The right to explore as well as live and work abroad, without tiresome red tape, is an immense privilege. As it stands, the ability to freely access and roam our fellow EU member states makes us incredibly fortunate. For me, this adventure has highlighted what is at stake. • I’ve got a huge backlog of photos and videos to process and complete over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for blog updates! I’m also in the process of calculating and offsetting my CO2 emissions. • The final list of countries (in order of first entry) is as follows: UK ➡️ Republic of Ireland ➡️ France ➡️ Belgium ➡️ Netherlands ➡️ Germany ➡️ Denmark ➡️ Sweden ➡️ Norway (non-EU) ➡️ Finland ➡️ Estonia ➡️ Latvia ➡️ Lithuania ➡️ Poland ➡️ Slovakia ➡️ Hungary ➡️ Romania ➡️ Bulgaria ➡️ Greece ➡️ Austria ➡️ Czech Republic ➡️ Slovenia ➡️ Croatia ➡️ Italy ➡️ Luxembourg ➡️ Spain ➡️ Portugal #StopBrexit ??❤️?

A post shared by The Rogue Consultant (@therogueconsultant) on Oct 31, 2018 at 1:19am PDT

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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