If you are British and you’re reading this, I’ve got some news that may shock you: you’re not a citizen of the United Kingdom, you never have been – you’re only a European Citizen. Rubbish, I hear you cry – I’m British through and through, a proud British citizen, John Bull, as British as they come – but gird your loins, because it’s true: you’ve never been a citizen, because you can’t be a citizen without fundamentally guaranteed rights of citizenship.
The 1948 British Nationality Act made everyone in the crumbling empire a ‘Citizen’ yes, but it didn’t fundamentally change the relationship between ‘we the people’ and the Sovereign state. Magna Carta & The bill of rights never granted us citizenship, we’ve always been Sovereign subjects. The one thing that’s been the same over three hundred years of ‘modern’ parliaments is that no one parliament can bind another. Our ‘rights’ to freedom of movement, the vote, fair trial by jury with appeal, even the right to life – these absolutely basic freedoms are not enshrined anywhere in British law in any fundamentally sticky way, they are simply privileges afforded to you by the grace of parliament, privileges that could be taken away by any government with a big enough majority.
We have of course signed up to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights (1950), but it should be remembered that neither of these are legally binding, they can be ignored and thrown aside at the whim of any parliament. The only citizenship you hold in the UK is that of the European Union, it gives you the right (not the privilege) to vote, to move freely, and to live your life with fundamental rights guaranteed by law.
With the election coming up so quickly think carefully about where you lay your vote: the parties crying out for us to leave the EU make no promise of fundamental constitutional change, and frankly constituional reform (alongside financial reform) needs to be the top priority for any incoming government.
Our rights need to be enshrined in perpetuity: our constitution or basic law should be take precedent over any individual parliament. The rights of the people in Britain should come first, and ironic as the Daily Mail might find it (and let’s not forget this is the same paper that thought Hitler was a good idea) so far the only place that’s done that for us is the European Union. So as you place your tick in the box tomorrow, and I hope you will be ticking a box, think carefully about who is most likely to make the revolutionary constitutional reform that for the first time in our history will place the British Citizen above their representatives.