STRASBOURG The new Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament reiterated on Tuesday that the EU legislature will not accept giving Britain access to Europe's single market if it blocks free access to EU immigrants.
"If the UK wants to remain a part of the single market, it will also have to accept the free movement of our citizens because in the opinion of the parliament these four freedoms of the Union are inseparable," liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt told a news conference at the Strasbourg legislature.
Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and leading supporter of closer EU integration, was appointed by party leaders last week to represent the parliament in negotiations on Brexit. Parliament will have to approve any final deal.
The four basic freedoms under EU treaties are for free movement of goods, services, capital and labour.
Verhofstadt also urged the British government to trigger formal negotiations with Brussels as soon as possible so that they could be completed before the next EU parliament is elected in mid-2019: "I cannot imagine that we can start the next legislative cycle without agreement," he said.
(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald)