With just 14 days to go until the UK legally severs its ties with the EU, Guy Verhofstadt also insisted he had received assurances from the Brexit secretary regarding anxieties about citizens’ rights.
After British MEPs packed up their offices in Strasbourg for the last time on Thursday, the former Belgian prime minister raised the prospect of the UK rejoining the bloc due to the demands of younger generations.
Taking his seat for the last time in the building on Thursday, the Labour MEP Seb Dance, said: “One day British MEPs will get to sit here again and represent our interests and work with our neighbours to solve common problems. Britain is taking a sabbatical.”
When the comment was put to Mr Verhofstadt on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he replied: “I think that will happen, yeah. It’s difficult to say when actually.
“But there will be a young generation in the coming decades who will say ‘look what we have done’ and we want to go back. I think it will happen. Maybe I will not see it in my life, but it will happen.”
Appearing later on the programme, the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said he disagreed with Mr Verhofstadt’s prediction that the UK would return to the EU, but he supported holding another referendum in the future to test the theory.
“Maybe I’m wrong,” said Mr Hannan. “I’m perfectly happy to have another referendum in a generation’s time and let people decide.”
On “associate” membership of the EU, Mr Verhofstadt confirmed plans are still being pushed – in a move that would allow Britons to sign up to be citizens of the bloc even after Brexit.
“My idea is that the European Union and European citizenship has to be possible for the European living somewhere else in the world,” he said.
Taking my seat in Strasbourg for the last time after five and a half wonderful years.
One day British MEPS will get to sit here again and represent our interests and work with our neighbours to solve common problems.
Britain is taking a sabbatical 😉 pic.twitter.com/GIV6mcdvc7— Seb Dance MEP 🌹🇪🇺 (@SebDance)January 16, 2020
Mr Verhofstadt , who was in London yesterday for meetings with Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, also told the programme the government had conceded by allowing EU citizens to have a hard copy of their settled status confirmation. Those who have been successful in claiming settled status were previously told to use a screenshot of their confirmation on their mobile phone as evidence.
“They said they were going to look at it so people can print it so they have a physical document,” the former Belgian prime minister said. “People will have the opportunity to have a printout, probably a PDF document. That was the conclusion of our conversation.”