Guy Verhofstadt, who until recently was Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator, has insisted that his plot to give British citizens EU citizenship even after Brexit is still on the table and will be raised during the tense talks between Brussels and Westminster. Mr Verhofstadt’s plan threatens to disrupt the Brexit talks, since it is thought that Boris Johnson would refuse to extend EU citizenship rights to British citizens after the country leaves the bloc. Even European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refused to publicly back Mr Verhofstadt’s “associate EU citizenship” plot last week.
The plan from the leading Belgian MEP would give Britons who regret leaving the EU “associate EU citizenship”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Verhofstadt said: “EU citizenship has to be possible for a European living outside of Europe.
“Citizenship is not just limited to a territorial definition but that people who have their links with Europe can keep their citizenship.
“It is not just about the UK only, it is a broader concept. It will be discussed at an upcoming conference inside the EU.”
He continued: “For the seventh time in the European Parliament this week we have urged member states to look into it.
“It’s not easy because people have said we would have to rewrite the EU treaties and changing the treaties in the EU is not the easiest thing to do.
“But, during this negotiation, we will bring it up. We have asked the member states to examine it, and we will discuss it at the conference that I am chairing inside the EU.”
Last week, European Commission Commission President Ursula von der Leyen responded to a question on Mr Verhofstadt’s proposal by pointing out that the UK would be “a third country” after Brexit.
She said any advantages for British citizens would have to be negotiated as part of a deal that encompasses the free movement of goods, services and capital – along with people.
Ms von der Leyen explained “The bitter truth then is the UK will be a third country after Brexit and then we will have to negotiate.
“We are very open to do the most because I’m a true believer that as much exchange as possible we should allow to our citizens.
“But for example if free movement of people is excluded, well there is a trade-off to that.”
In December, a leading Remainer lawyer launched a petition calling on Boris Johnson to allow Britons to have “associate citizenship” of the EU, if they so choose.
Jolyon Maugham QC, one of the lawyers responsible for challenging Boris Johnson’s attempt to prorogue Parliament, has started the petition, calling it an “olive branch” to Remainers.
On Thursday evening, cabinet minister Stephen Barclay rebuked Mr Verhofstadt for “scaremongering” about the rights of EU citizens to stay in the EU after Brexit.
The EU Exit Secretary gave the Belgian MEP a dressing down during talks in Downing Street following his repeated claims that their settlement rights could be in jeopardy.