(CN) – The European Commission on Wednesday declined to advance a citizens’ initiative to stop Britain’s break from the EU from happening, while greenlighting two other initiatives aimed at protecting the rights of people affected by Brexit.
Had it been advanced by the commission and managed to collect the 1 million signatures needed, the “Stop Brexit” initiative would have called on the commission to prevent the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, which was approved by voters this past June. The commission noted the EU constitution explicitly allows member states to leave the union in accordance with their own laws.
“While the commission regrets the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, it respects the outcome of the referendum,” the commission said in a statement.
But the EU’s regulatory body did advance two other citizens’ initiatives stemming from Brexit on Tuesday, both of which would require the commission to protect the rights and status of EU citizens affected by Brexit – the 3.2 million EU citizens living in Britain and 1.2 million British subjects scattered throughout the EU.
The commission noted it cannot propose legislation to give EU citizenship to the British citizens in the EU, but said they will feature prominently during the exit negotiations beginning later this week.
“The commission will do its utmost to prevent EU citizens from being used as bargaining chips in the negotiations with the U.K.,” the commission said.
EU law allows citizens to chart the commission’s legal course through the European Citizens’ Initiatives, which allows individuals and groups to propose laws which the commission is required to either implement or bring to lawmakers for passage.
After the commission examines the citizens’ proposals to make sure they fall within its powers and do not violate EU law or its values, it clears the proposals for signature-gathering. An initiative must receive at least 1 million signatures from at least a quarter of the EU’s 28 member states to be acted on by the commission.