Guy Verhofstadt tells Theresa May that EU citizens' rights 'non-negotiable' during Brexit transition

Posted On: 
2nd February 2018

Guy Verhofstadt has rejected Theresa May’s plan to end free movement when the UK leaves the EU next year, saying citizens’ rights during the post-Brexit transition period are “not negotiable”.

Guy Verhofstadt is the chief Brexit representative for the European parliament

The European Parliament’s Brexit chief was responding to the Prime Minister’s suggestion that EU migrants entering the UK would be subject to different rules after Britain exits the bloc in March 2019.

Guidance published earlier this week by Brussels stated that EU citizens coming to the UK during the two-year transition period much enjoy the same rights as those arriving before. 

Michel Barnier slaps down David Davis over EU rules during Brexit transition

Brexit minister suggests civil servants may be conspiring to keep UK in customs union

Government will publish 'embarrassing' Brexit papers under pressure from Labour

But speaking during a trip to China Mrs May said: “I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving.”

But Mr Verhofstadt hit back, implying that Mrs May was responding to domestic pressure from Brexiteers and insisting that Brussels would not compromise on citizens’ rights during the two-year transition period.

He said: “Prime Minister May’s comments appear to be part of a domestic negotiation within the UK Cabinet, and threaten to increase existing uncertainties for citizens, which is regrettable.

“Prime Minister May’s proposal to make a distinction between those arriving before March 2019 and during the transition could lead to discrimination against EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU. EU citizens contribute to Britain; what kind of message does this send to them?

“The maintenance of EU citizens’ rights during the transition are not negotiable. We will not accept that there are two sets of rights for EU citizens. For the transition to work, it must mean a continuation of the existing acquis with no exceptions.”

Meanwhile, more leaked government Brexit analysis has revealed the Government aims to reduce EU migration by 40,000.

According to the work, seen by the Telegraph, under a post-Brexit free trade deal with Europe immigration from the bloc would fall by 40,000, while crashing out without an agreement would see an annual reduction of 90,000.

The proposals describe a "flexible migration" scenario in which EU workers would have to earn £20,500 to come to the UK.

Currently, over 230,000 EU migrants come to the UK every year.