Reassure Britons in EU more before we sign off deal

... and offer associate EU citizenship to those who still value being European

25 December 2019
By Oliver Rowland

More must be done to reassure Britons abroad in the EU and other EU citizens living in the UK before the European Parlia­ment can ratify the Brexit deal, says its Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt.

MEP Mr Verhofstadt also urged EU colleagues to return to the idea – first raised in 2016 – that Britons could be offered an optional “associate” EU citizenship to maintain their rights if they still feel European.

He told colleagues it cannot simply be taken for granted that the parliament will sign off the Brexit deal when it holds a plenary meeting on January 29 in Brussels, paving the way for the UK to leave.

He said he had received hundreds of emails from Britons  and other EU citizens who live in the UK, worried about their post-Brexit status.

“We need to solve that first before we give our consent on this Brexit treaty.

Why? Never can citizens, British and Euro­peans alike, be the victims of this – in my opinion, not very intelligent – choice, of Brexit.”

He urged Boris Johnson to give all EU citizens in the UK and Britons abroad the “full rights as they have today, automatically, no ifs and buts” and said EU states should also grant Britons living in the EU the same.

“More and more people are coming back to the idea of EU associate citizenship for British citizens who want to continue to feel that they are European, and I think that we have to be open to that,” he added. It has previously been suggested this might involve an annual fee.

It might allow Britons to maintain rights such as free movement to live and work in the EU without residency cards, and local and EU voting rights.

If the European Parliament does not ratify the deal, there is still a risk of the UK leaving with no deal at all.

Let’s look at UK rejoining!

A Green MEP from Ger­many wants to launch a European Parliament “UK friendship group” to maintain close ties with the UK – and be an “entry point” for pro-Europeans in Britain seeking to rejoin.

The group could also listen to concerns of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, and follow the future of EU/UK relations, said MEP Terry Reintke, pictured.

She said she had cried to see her UK colleagues forced to leave so soon and immediately emailed fellow MEPs.

She said on Twitter: “We already have numerous responses from people wanting to join. I know things look difficult today, but trust me: there are still many people in the EU who will continue to be at your side.” An initial meeting is planned this month. [Photo of Terry Reintke: European Parliament].

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