EU figurehead backs calls to offer Brits ‘associate’ EU citizenship after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 11:27 19 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:27 19 December 2019

Guy Verhofstadt, European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, poses for a selfie as he joins a group of pro-EU supporters protesting against Brexit. (Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images).

Guy Verhofstadt, European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, poses for a selfie as he joins a group of pro-EU supporters protesting against Brexit. (Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images).

Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media

A key European Union figure has backed calls to give Brits ‘associate’ EU citizenship after Brexit.

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Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP who was made the European parliament's representative on Brexit, said he backs the idea of EU citizenship, and called for the British government to reciprocate by giving EU citizens the same rights they have right now in Britain.

It follows lawyer Jolyon Maugham's petition calling on Boris Johnson to give British citizens "associate citizenship" to the EU if they wish.

Set up by the Good Law Project, it has already received 50,000 signatures in just a week.

In the petition text, Maugham writes: "We will now, it is clear, leave the EU. Those who did not want this have lost. I understand you believe this to be in the national interest and that you have a democratic mandate for it. But I hope you can understand that for me, and my fellow signatories, it will involve a profound wrench. We will experience it as the loss of an important part of our identity.

"So I write to ask you, respectfully, to take up an initiative your predecessor declined to support in your negotiations on our future relationship with the EU. The initiative is for a form of Associate Citizenship - for those who want it. It will not hinder your negotiations but it would be a hugely significant olive branch to us."

Verhofstadt replied with support for the idea on Twitter.

He posted: "Everyone presumes the European parliament will give automatically its consent to the Withdrawal Agreement. Not if the remaining problems with the citizens' rights are not solved first.

"Citizens can never become the victims of Brexit.

"I have received hundreds of letters of citizens panicking about their status. I want to make an appeal to PM Johnson: be generous in your victory. Grant to all EU citizens the full rights as they have today. Automatically. To all of them. No 'ifs and buts'.

"The EU member states should grant UK citizens living in Europe the full rights as they have today. Automatically. No 'ifs and buts' here either. Let's also come back to the idea of 'European associated citizenship' for UK citizens who want to keep their link with Europe."

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