EXCLUSIVE: MEP plans campaign to have UK civil partnerships recognised in Europe

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sharon Bowles has revealed plans to campaign for the recognition of UK civil partnerships (CPs) in other EU states.

At present, the French equivalent of a civil partnership, known as a pacte civil de solidarité (PACS) is fully recognised in Britain, but France does not recognise UK CPs.

Earlier this month, PinkNews.co.uk spoke to Fernando Soares, a resident in France, who discovered that his UK CP to his late partner was not recognised in that country.

This meant that Mr Soares would have to pay 60% inheritance tax on their property, unlike a heterosexual married couple or civil partners in the UK, and so was forced to sell their home.

Ms Bowles told PinkNews.co.uk that situations such as that facing Mr Soares are common.

“Many EU countries have CPs,” She said, “and most recognise other states’ CPs, but civil partners do not necessarily get the treatment that they would in their country of origin.

“For example, in France, people with UK CPs are not recognised as their partner’s next-of-kin in terms of tax.

The MEP plans to push for CPs to be recognised in this way, and has already taken the first steps in the campaign.

“I raised this issue with the French Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, in June, on a personal level. I have also written to her about it.

“Additionally, I have drafted a written declaration, with the participation of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Europe, which will formally raise the matter in the European Parliament.

The declaration calls for “Member States with existing same-sex partnership legislation to recognise the arrangements of other Member States that have also made provisions for same-sex partnerships,” and also “Calls upon the Commission to draw up guidelines for such mutual recognition by Member States with existing same-sex partnership legislation.”

Written declarations have a lifetime of three months, after which, if has been signed by over half the MEPs, it will become a resolution.

Resolutions are then formally adopted by the European Parliament and forwarded to the Commission, Council and Member State governments for consideration.

“The declaration will be launched in the next few weeks,” Ms Bowles continued, “and we are hoping for organisations to join the campaign and put pressure on MEPs to sign up.

“We are optimistic, because lots of declarations do move on in policy terms.

“We aim to have the French do something about this issue this year, as this is the year of their presidency.

“We are also planning to gain some cross-party support, and support from MEPs from other EU states, to obtain the best results.”

Other UK civil partners living in France have spoken out about since PinkNews.co.uk’s interview with Mr Soares.

Oliver Hepworth and his partner had a CP ceremony in 2005. The couple bought a property in France ten years ago, but have since discovered that their CP is not fully recognised in France.

Mr Hepworth told PinkNews.co.uk:

“Our British CP is not recognised in France at all and we have no legal rights as a couple over in France.

“We thought the solution would be to have a PACS over here but we were refused from doing this because we were already in a CP in the U.K.

“The registrar in France required the British embassy to issue a certificate de coutume to say that we are not in a legal civil partnership in the UK. Obviously we are.

“It seems that the tribunal recognises our civil partnership but not the French tax authorities or the French legal system.

“It seems really discriminating to British nationals since the French have a same sex partnership called the PACS, and they also give gay Dutch married couples full legal recognition.

“Alas British gay couples are discriminated against.

“Couples with a PACS have 0% inheritance tax whilst we are still subject to 60% inheritance tax.

“Obviously this would be a huge bill for us and would mean that we would have to sell our home to pay the tax bill.

“Even life insurance would be subject to 60% taxes and because of the laws of succession it is almost impossible to leave it to your partner.

“A French couple with a PACS living in the U.K has always been able to benefit from the UK system in the same way as married or civil partners can and have no difficulty in leaving their estate to their partners and pay 0% inheritance tax.

“They also benefit from all other legal aspects of a British CP.

“This is grossly unfair; why should British gay couples be treated so badly in France when the UK give all the same benefits to French gay couples that they do to their own nationals?

“What is also unfair is that for French nationals living in the UK who already have a CP with their British partner and who now want a PACS with their British partner, presumably to safeguard their assets in France, are allowed to do this.”