11 Jan 2017, 00 mins ago

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator has confirmed that they will offer British citizens the chance to individually opt-in and remain EU citizens. Guy Verhofstadt, who is in charge of negotiating a post-Brexit deal, said the “very important” proposal had “captured the imagination and hopes” of many British people who wished to retain their rights as EU citizens and would be in his negotiation mandate.

The right would provide each British citizen individually with an opportunity to obtain “associate citizenship”, allowing them to keep free movement to live and work across the EU, as well as a vote in European Parliament elections.

Mr Verhofstadt is drafting a report with the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs about some potential long-term changes to the EU’s structure. This plan was originally proposed by Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens for inclusion in the report, but will now be taken forward independently.

In a statement, Mr Goerens said: “Today I decided together with Guy Verhofstadt to withdraw my amendment on associate EU citizenship. We realised that this has 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. Yesterday evening, the House of Commons decided by a majority of almost 400 to support Theresa Mays plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017. Hence the prospect that this Article 50 will be invoked has become very real indeed. The offer could provide a solution to the disruption Brexit will cause British people who work or have family in other parts of the European Union. The European Parliament will define its position on the Brexit agreement through a resolution during spring 2017. This seems to be the best opportunity to give Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt the possibility to enforce the associate EU citizenship.”

In its’ original form the modification suggested the provision of “European associate citizenship for those who feel and wish to be part of the European project but are nationals of a former member state; offers these associate citizens the rights of freedom of movement and to reside on its’ territory as well as being represented in the Parliament through a vote in the European elections on the European lists.”

Theresa May has made clear her intention to restrict freedom of movement from EU countries to the UK, a policy that would surely be reciprocated for British citizens. Given the likelihood, then, that British citizens will lose their guaranteed right to live and work in the EU post-Brexit, this amendment will be extremely valuable.