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Lawyer raises 67,000 euros online to aid expats' Brexit case

[The Hague] A lawyer helping British expatriates in a legal battle over their rights as EU citizens after Brexit said Monday more than 67,000 euros(S$108,783) was raised in four days to fight an appeal in the case.

The crowdfunding campaign, launched Thursday, reached its target of £60,000 (S$109,259) on Sunday, London-based lawyer Jolyon Maugham told AFP, adding: "We are very, very pleased with the response." Mr Maugham, who has used crowdfunding to advance a range of issues, kicked off the online drive after Dutch authorities appealed the watershed case.

Five British expats and two expat organisations took the Dutch government to court in January in what is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind.

The plaintiffs argued that they have independent rights as European Union citizens over and above those of any specific EU country - including Britain.

They insist their legal rights as EU citizens - including crucial freedom of movement - should therefore remain and be protected by the Netherlands even after Britain withdraws from the 28-member body on March 29, 2019.

In what could have far-reaching implications for about one million Britons on the Continent, a Dutch judge last month referred the case to the EU's highest European Court of Justice.

The referral hinges on the crucial questions of whether Britons will automatically lose their European citizenship after Brexit and under what conditions they would be able to maintain their rights.

Dutch authorities however appealed the decision to refer the case to the Luxembourg-based ECJ.

In court papers last month, Dutch authorities argued there was a possibility that the questions could be declared inadmissible, since Brexit negotiations are still ongoing.

The Netherlands had "serious doubts over the admissibility of the planned... questions" since the dispute had a "hypothetical character", it said.

But supporters of the expats' case responded to Mr Maugham's plea to help fight the Dutch appeal, which will be heard on April 19.

"We are pleased that people recognise that this may well be the best chance for those who feel that Europe is an important part of their identity and to continue to see that recognised in European law," Mr Maugham said.

The questions have "the same answer, whatever the conclusion of the political negotiations," he said.

It may however still be several months before the ECJ reaches a decision.