Guy Verhofstadt: EU citizens' rights 'non-negotiable' during Brexit transition
Theresa May had suggested that EU citizens who came to the UK during transition would be treated differently
Guy Verhofstadt - Image credit: European Parliament audiovisual
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”.
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.
But speaking during a trip to China, 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 Verhofstadt hit back, implying that 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.”
The EU has listed sanctions that could be made against the UK if it breaks rules during the transition period
UK Cabinet Office minister David Lidington was in Edinburgh for talks with the Scottish Government
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The call follows the UK Government’s publication of the repeal bill earlier this week