British citizens may be able to choose to keep certain aspects of European Union (EU) citizenship after Brexit, one of the bloc’s chief negotiators has said.
Guy Verhofstadt, who is negotiating on behalf of the European Parliament, said he would be arguing among EU colleagues that Brits who opt in should be able to keep certain freedoms associated with EU citizenship.
“All British citizens today have also EU citizenship. That means a number of things: the possibility to participate in the European elections, the freedom of travel without problem inside the union,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We need to have an arrangement in which this arrangement can continue for those citizens who on an individual basis are requesting it.”
Mr. Verhofstadt, who also leads the liberal group of MEPs in the European Parliament, added the matter should be prioritised, saying he had received over 1,000 letters from Brits who did not want to lose their EU citizenship or their “European identity”.
“So emotion is now coming up and all those voters will want to remain in the European Union and have the feeling that they are lost, that nobody is defending them anymore, that they are losing a part of that identity – and it’s for that reason that I’m trying to convince the European Union, not only the European Parliament, to take on board that feeling of UK citizens.”
Mr. Verhofstadt has been floating the idea for a few months now. In November, the former Belgian Prime Minister said: “I like the idea that people who are European citizens and saying they want to keep it have the possibility of doing so. As a principle I like it.”
However, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen accused him of trying to cause division in Britain.
“It’s an attempt to create two classes of UK citizen and to subvert the referendum vote,” he said.
“The truth is that Brussels will try every trick in the book to stop us leaving.”