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Dutch judges nix bid to take Brexit case to European court

© AFP | Judges in Amsterdam said the claims brought by British expats demanding rights as EU citizens after Brexit "are too vague"

THE HAGUE (AFP) - 

Dutch appeals judges Tuesday threw out a bid by British expats to take a landmark case demanding rights as EU citizens after Brexit to Europe's top court.

The Amsterdam appeals court found in favour of the Dutch government, ruling that the claims brought by the expats "are too vague" to go before the European Court of Justice.

In what was believed to be the first such case as Britain prepares to leave the European Union next year, five Britons living in the Netherlands and two expat organisations took the government to court in January.

They had argued that by living in the EU for so long they had acquired independent rights as EU citizens, over and above being citizens of any specific EU member country -- including Britain.

But lawyer Erik Pijnacker Hordijk, representing the Dutch government, told the appeals court in April their case was "groundless" and should be ruled as "inadmissible".

The Amsterdam appeals court agreed with the lower court that the position of Britons living in the EU after Brexit was a matter of EU law.

But it said the issues raised by the group were "not concrete enough" to be submitted to the European court.

"Everybody is extremely disappointed," the group's lawyer Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm told AFP.

"We will study the decision before deciding what to do next, but it could mean either going to the Dutch Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) or starting a new more in-depth procedure before the courts."

Currently, about 46,000 Brits live in the Netherlands and the Dutch state had argued in April that there was no reason "to believe ... they will run a serious risk of being told to leave the country".

But the group insisted their legal rights as EU citizens -- including freedom of movement -- should remain and be protected by the Netherlands even after Britain withdraws from the 28-member body at midnight on March 29, 2019.

Had the matter proceeded to the European court based in Luxembourg, it could have had far-reaching implications for the estimated one million Brits who live on the continent.

Lower court judge Floris Bakels in February had asked the European Court of Justice to answer two preliminary questions.

The questions were: "Does Brexit mean that Britons automatically lose their European citizenship or do they maintain their rights, and if so, under what conditions?"

The issue was also raised in April in the Dutch lower house of parliament with a special round table with expats to discuss the ramifications of Brexit.

© 2018 AFP