Ahead of Britain’s EU exit in two weeks, Guy Verhofstadt says future generations of Britons will one day demand to “go back”.
Labour’s Seb Dance argued the UK was taking a “sabbatical” from the bloc and would be back in the future.
Mr Verhofstadt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that will happen, yes, (but) it’s difficult to say when. “There will be a generation, the young generation coming in the coming decades, who will say later, ‘We want to go back’. “It will happen. Maybe you will not see it in my life, but it will happen.” Three years after Britons voted to leave the EU in a referendum Britain will – barring any unforeseen circumstances – leave the bloc on 31 January. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is set to become law in the coming days, with the European Parliament then required to ratify it.
Once Britain has left, London and Brussels will start negotiating the details of the future relationship between the two sides. This will come into effect at the end of the transition period at the end of December. One of the key issues that has been thrown up by the 2016 Brexit vote is the future status of British citizens living on the continent and European citizens who call Britain home. Around three million EU citizens live in the UK – and they have until at least July 2021 to make an application for settled status. The scheme aims to help EU citizens and their families live and work in the UK once freedom of movement comes to an end as a result of Brexit. Mr Verhofstadt said he met with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay on Thursday, a meeting that he claimed saw the British government reveal it is looking at allowing EU citizens to have a hard copy of their settled status confirmation.
Those who have successfully claimed settled status have received confirmation by email – but the letter specified it was not legal proof of their status. In some cases, citizens have been told to use a screenshot of their confirmation on their phone as proof. Mr Verhofstadt said: “They said we are going to look at it so people can print it so they have a physical document. “People will have the opportunity to have a printout, probably a PDF document. “That was the conclusion of our conversation.” But the Home Office said there had been “no change” to the government’s approach. “It has always been the case that people could print a copy of their confirmation letter, but this can’t be used as evidence of status,” the department said.
“The EU Settlement Scheme grants people with a secure, digital status which future-proofs their rights. Physical documents can get lost, stolen, damaged and tampered with.” Mr Verhofstadt also said he had been given assurances by Mr Barclay that there would be no automatic deportation for those who miss the deadline to apply. The Home Office said it has already “made it clear” that extensions will be granted if there are “reasonable grounds” for missing the deadline. The latest figures show that more than 2.7 million applications to the settled status scheme have been made so far. A total of 2,450,100 have been approved, leaving a backlog of more than 300,000 cases. Six “serious or persistent” criminals have been refused settled status.(Skynews)