European Citizenship after Brexit

29 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2016 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017

Date Written: September 29, 2016


This paper investigates European citizenship after Brexit, in light of the functionalist theory of citizenship. No matter its shape, Brexit will impact significantly on what has been labelled as ‘one of the major achievements of EU integration’: citizenship of the Union. For the first time an automatic and collective lapse of status is observed – a form of involuntary loss of citizenship en masse, ex lege, for EU citizens of exclusively British nationality that, however, does not create statelessness and is likely to be tolerated under international law. This loss of citizenship is connected to a reduction of rights, affecting not solely the former Union citizens but also current Union citizens, such as second country nationals in the United Kingdom and their family members. The paper comes in six sections. The first section sets the problem of legal uncertainty afflicting second country nationals in the United Kingdom and British citizens turning from expats to post-European third country nationals. The second section explains why a theoretically informed inquiry is needed. The third section describes the theory and delineates three ways in which it applies to Brexit. These three directions of inquiry are developed in the following sections. The fourth section focuses on the intension of Union citizenship: Which rights can be frozen? The fifth section determines the extension of Union citizenship: Who gets to withdraw the status? The key finding is that while Member States are in principle free to revoke the status of Union citizen, former Member States are not unbounded in stripping Union citizens of their acquired territorial rights. In the final section some conclusions as to the nature of Union citizenship are drawn. Policy-suggestions are summed up in a table at the end.

Keywords: Brexit, Migration policy, EU, European Citizenship, nationality law, international law, legal theory, applied philosophy

Suggested Citation

Mindus, Patricia, European Citizenship after Brexit (September 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Patricia Mindus (Contact Author)

Uppsala University ( email )

Box 627
Uppsala, 751 26
+46 018-471 72 11 (Phone)
+46 018-471 73 70 (Fax)


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