Dear Madam Chancellor, dear Dr Merkel, dear members of the German government,
As academics and teachers of German and European studies, we are concerned about the outcome of any Brexit negotiations for EU citizens. We ask Germany to act in solidarity with British Europeans who did not choose this result, by striving to protect their rights in any future EU exit agreement. Any moves to do otherwise in the name of unity between the other 27 member states would contradict the very notion of European solidarity.
We have been educating a young generation of Europeans, encouraging them to learn about German history and culture, and fostering an understanding of the European history, politics and cultures that form the bedrock of European cooperation. Having taken up the opportunities afforded by Erasmus+ and their right to live and work abroad, many of our current and former students have personal and professional lives that depend upon their EU citizenship. They may lose their residence and work permits, their right to equal treatment, and be stripped of their democratic right to vote and stand for election where they live.
Last week, nearly three quarters of voters under 25 chose to remain in the EU. Soon, they may be denied the opportunities that European integration aims to offer. Instead of excluding young people from EU citizenship, we should work together to ensure that all people across Europe have the equality of opportunity they deserve.
The European Union is founded upon the values of democracy, justice and solidarity; it is founded upon unity in diversity in Europe and our multiple European identities. Through the development of a European political union, we have turned national citizens into EU citizens. After 43 years of EU membership, many British people – most particularly in the younger generations – have developed not just a strong sense of European identity but also European lives. EU citizens from other member states have also established British lives.
Allowing EU citizens to lose their much-cherished rights would betray our responsibilities to fellow Europeans – British or otherwise. While UK governments have not always been a force for unity in the EU, there is a generation of British citizens who want a future as EU citizens. Stripping them of their citizenship contradicts the principles of the European treaties that ask for European solidarity and prosperity for all Europeans. We ask you to defend the rights of EU citizens in any future exit negotiations with the UK.