The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator is expected to launch one last desperate attempt to wreck Brexit. He will use a vote on the withdrawal agreement this week to encourage Brussels to push for “ambitious provisions concerning the movement of persons” in future talks. In a draft resolution, seen by Express.co.uk, and due to be debated in Strasbourg in the plenary session, Mr Verhofstadt calls to ensure “those rights should be commensurate with the degree of future cooperation in other areas”.
So far, Mr Verhofstadt has secured the support of senior German MEP Manfred Weber and former EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani for the resolution, which “expresses its concern” with the Independent Monitoring Authority, a citizens’ rights watchdog.
Responding to the move, a Home Office spokesperson said: “We have already provided certainty to over 2 million people who have been granted status through the EU settlement scheme. Our scheme is free, there is plenty of support for applicants and, once the withdrawal agreement bill passes, EU citizens have until the end of June 2021 to apply.
“We have done far more than any other EU member state has done for British citizens, and it’s time they adopted a similarly generous approach.”
Mr Verhofstadt’s bid to derail Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement does not come as a surprise, as the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator has tried to interfere with Britain’s departure from the bloc on more than one occasion.
In an interview with euronews before the 2016 referendum, Mr Verhofstadt claimed Britain would be a “dwarf” without the EU.
He said: “I am an optimist.
“I think that they are going to say yes in the referendum, because they are not so stupid, to give up, first of all, the European Union which is economically important for them.
“The City of London for example lives from the payments in euros, more than from the payments in pounds sterling.
“And secondly I think foremost geopolitically, I think British citizens know very well, understand very well, that Britain without the European Union is in fact a dwarf on the world level.”
He added: “And the same is true for the European Union.
“The European Union without Britain is certainly not a strong continent that can compete with China, with Russia, with the US and other powers.”
According to a new book, Mr Verhofstadt wanted to keep Britain in Europe for as long as possible.
Documentary maker Lode Desmet and BBC broadcaster Edward Stourton shadowed Mr Verhofstadt for almost two years to make a documentary and book on the process leading up to the UK’s first scheduled departure from the bloc on March 29, 2019.
In their book “Blind Man’s Brexit”, published in September, the authors recalled how Mr Verhofstadt and German MEP Elmar Brok wanted the transition period to last for at least three years.
Celebrating the creation of the Brexit Steering Group (BST) in 2017, which coordinates the European Parliament’s involvement in the Brexit talks, Mr Verhofstadt is quoted as saying: “This is the Brexit Steering Group!
“For two years together… yeah!
“And then the transition period also.
“Again three years. Yeah!”
Mr Brok noted “at least three years”, to which his boss added: “At least!”