The European Union is fast-tracking plans that will see British citizens offered the option to remain as EU citizens even after Britain leaves the Union, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator has confirmed.
The deal would effectively give the British people the best of both worlds – a favourable political arrangement at the national level while retaining the personal benefits of EU membership such as the ability to live and work in Europe.
The plan had been considered as a long term aim by European Parliamentarians, but Guy Verhofstadt, who is taking the lead on thrashing out a deal, has confirmed that he plans to fast track the “very important” plans, which he said had “captured the imagination and hopes” of many British people.
Although the details are yet to be finalised, it is envisaged that the deal will allow British citizens to live and work freely in the remaining member states as well as grant them the right to vote in EU Parliamentary elections, the Independent has reported.
The idea was first floated by liberal MP Charles Goerens for inclusion in a report by the Parliament’s committee on constitutional affairs, examining proposed long term changes to the structure. But addressing a meeting of the committee, Verhofstadt said that he would be bypassing that report and taking forward the proposal individually.
Verhofstadt told the committee’s members: “We come to the vote of this important amendment 882, tabled by colleague Charles Goerens. It is an important amendment that has captured the imagination and hopes of many of the 48 per cent of Brits that have voted to remain in the EU. You will all have received many emails about this – and there has been many articles about this.
“It has therefore become a very important issue that cannot await treaty change – as envisaged by Charles when he first tabled it.
“I am therefore proposing to remove it from my report – which after all is concerned with Treaty change – and to include it in the negotiations we will have with the UK government. I as Brexit negotiator for the Parliament will ensure that it is included in the parliament’s negotiating mandate.”
In a statement, Mr Goerens said that he would be withdrawing the amendment from the report as he and Mr Verhofstadt had realised it had “become a very important issue that cannot await treaty change – as was my intention when I first tabled my amendment – since this might take years.”
On Tuesday night British MPs voted in the House of Commons to support government plans to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Goerens said the vote meant “the prospect that this Article 50 will be invoked has become very real indeed.”
Therefore, tabling the proposal as a separate initiative appeared to offer the “best opportunity to give Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt the possibility to enforce the Associate EU Citizenship,” Goerens said.
The Liberal Democrats’ sole MEP Catherine Bearder said: “The option of being able to retain EU citizenship offers a glimmer of hope for the millions of British people devastated by the referendum result.
“The fact this proposal is going ahead shows there remains a huge amount of goodwill towards Britain, despite the actions of this Conservative Brexit government.”