The proposal revealed by The Independent would see Brits offered “associate citizenship,” leaving them free to move, live, and work throughout the EU, as well as vote in European Parliament elections.
Verhofstadt, who has been appointed by the EU to lead negotiations with the British government, said that the “very important” proposal would be in his negotiating mandate, as it has “captured the imagination and hopes” of many Brits who want to retain their rights as EU citizens.
Depending on how EU negotiators approach the issue, the idea will likely need to be approved by the British government.
Verhofstadt and the European Parliament’s Committee on constitutional affairs are drawing up a report that will propose long-term changes to the EU’s structure.
Liberal MP Charles Goerens proposed that a measure allowing Brits to keep their EU citizenship as individuals be included in the report, but it will now bypass that process and be fast-tracked to move forward on its own.
In its original form, the provision would offer: “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.”
Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder said: “The option of being able to retain EU citizenship offers a glimmer of hope for the millions of British people devastated by the referendum result.
“The fact this proposal is going ahead shows there remains a huge amount of goodwill towards Britain, despite the actions of this Conservative Brexit government.
“Everyone who supports this should write to MEPs and tell them how passionately they feel about maintaining their rights as EU citizens, including the ability to live, study and work abroad.”
Last month when the proposal was revealed, Andrew Bridgen, a Brexit-backing Tory MP, condemned the idea.
“It’s an attempt to create two classes of UK citizen and to subvert the referendum vote. The truth is that Brussels will try every trick in the book to stop us leaving.”
Jayne Adye, director of the Get Britain Out campaign, told the Independent the EU is trying to divide the British public when it needs unity.
“It is totally unacceptable for certain citizens in the UK to subject themselves to laws, which are created by politicians who are not accountable for the British people as a whole.”
Although the British government has been quiet on what it wants after Brexit, it is likely that Britons would lose their automatic right to live and work in the EU, as Prime Minister Theresa May aims to restrict freedom of movement from EU countries to the UK.
MPs voted on Wednesday for a motion that says the government must trigger Article 50, which will begin formal Brexit talks, by the end of March of next year.