November 26, 2016 / 1:01 PM / 3 years ago

Brexit dealmaker Verhofstadt backs paid EU membership for Britons

Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) addresses the European Parliament during a debate on Greece in Strasbourg, France, July 8, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Parliament’s top Brexit negotiator backed the idea of individual European Union memberships for Britons who want to stay in the bloc in an interview published on Saturday.

Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, a European federalist and arch-foe of eurosceptics said there were legal obstacles - but in principle he supported individual EU memberships for Britons, paid by annual fee.

“Many say ‘we don’t want to cut our links’. I like the idea that people who are European citizens and saying they want to keep it have the possibility of doing so,” he told the Times.

Andrew Bridgen, a pro-Brexit British member of parliament, said Verhofstadt’s comments were designed to divide Britons and undermine June’s vote to leave the EU.

“The truth is that Brussels will try every trick in the book to stop us leaving,” he told the Times.

The European Parliament will have a limited role in the detailed negotiations with British Prime Minister Theresa May, once she formally launches the process triggered by the June 23 referendum vote to leave the bloc.

But members of European Parliament will have to pass legislation to enact a divorce, and possibly other agreements.

Earlier this week, Verhofstadt said the European Parliament would not accept an agreement for Britain’s exit from the European Union that would endanger any of the four EU freedoms, including the freedom of movement of people.

Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Alexander Smith

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