How long can UK citizens still sign an ECI?

2019-07-06 News

[Text was up-dated July 13th 2019 after new feedback from UK government – see bottom of text]

Many ongoing and future ECI organizers currently wonder how long UK citizens can still sign an ECI and if they should target the UK in their respective ECI campaign. We addressed this question to the European Commission and received the following answer below. On the very bottom you find our conclusion. We recommend to be very careful to campaign in the UK as it is very likely that these signatures will not be verified anymore in time and thus become invalid. 

Our question directed to the European Commission:

It is our understanding i) that UK citizens can still sign an ECI until October 31st  and that  ii) statements of support from the UK will still be verified after October 31st. Is that right?

Answer of the European Commission:

“We have updated this information on the ECI website: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/implementation-national-level

For details on the consequences of Brexit on the ECI, you need to take a close look at the notice the Commission published in April 2018 which is available on the same webpage – see point 2 of the notice which provides the answers to your questions. 

The organisers of the initiatives registered since the publication of the notice or which were still collecting at that time have received a letter highlighting the consequences of Brexit on the running of their initiatives. An update message in relation to the ‘Brexit deadline extension’ was sent last month to all those registered/and still collecting.”

Our interpretation of the European Commission’s response:

– British citizens can continue to sign until the withdrawal date (currently October 31st midnight) and be part of the organizing citizens’ committee.
– Signatures in the UK (of both: those British citizens living there as well as EU citizens living in the UK) are only valid if they have been verified before the date of withdrawal.
– British signatures in other countries should be valid if they have signed before the date of withdrawal, even if they are not yet verified (but these are just a few countries that do allow people to sign based on residence and not based on nationality – the list can be found in footnote 5 of the Technical Notice)
– British citizens in the organizing citizens’ committee must be replaced by EU citizens from other Member States on November 1st.

Our conclusion and recommendation for ECI organizers:

According to our understanding, we can no longer advise new ECIs to collect signatures in the UK if the current withdrawal date is kept. It would only make sense to collect ECI signatures in the UK, if the national UK authorities agree to check signatures from the UK during the process of an ongoing ECI. (We think that this is very unlikely but lack detailed information on this right now. However, we have sent out an official request to the UK government responsible person. We also will publish this answer).

UP-DATE – Here is the official feedback of the UK Government from 12 of July 2019:

“Statements of support made to the UK would only be counted if they were made approx 3 months before date of withdrawal (so currently 31st July 2019) in order to allow time for them to be verified and confirmed. Statements of support can be submitted after this date but are not guaranteed to be verified before the withdrawal date (31 October). Statements of support for ongoing initiatives will be counted if they have been verified and confirmed to the Commission prior to the date of withdrawal. The UK system for the collection and verification of statements of support cannot be used from the withdrawal date.”

For general questions on how to organize a successful ECI, please get in touch with us and consult our Practitioner’s Checklist.