David Davis has said he will look at proposals that would allow British nationals to opt-in and keep their European Union citizenship after Brexit.
The Brexit Secretary said he would “look seriously” at “associate citizenship” – and idea backed by the European Parliament to allow Brits to keep the right to live and work in the EU.
The European Parliament’s Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt has said the EU should be “generous and open” to British citizens who to want to retain the legal protections of EU citizenship and their identity as Europeans.
He has also fast-tracked proposals for associate citizenship to the negotiating table by including them in the Parliament’s negotiating mandate.
Over 300,000 people have signed a European citizens’ initiative calling on the European Commission to back the plans, which they say could take the form of a separate EU passport.
During a session of the House of Common on Thursday Mr Davis was asked by Tory backbencher Jeremy Lefroy whether he would consider giving British nationals the “right to go and work within the EU without a visa”.
He added: “The idea of associate citizenship is something that was raised by the president of the European Parliament and others.
“Would he look seriously at this so that British workers - particularly perhaps younger British workers - would have the opportunity to go and work in the European Union without a visa certainly for a limited, if not extended, period of time?”
Mr Davis replied: “Yes, we will look at these altogether - I have spoken to Guy Verhofstadt about this briefly, not at great length, already.
“I will be interested to hear from him what he hears from what they are proposing, and of course we will listen to anything of this nature.
“The aim of this exercise is to be good for Europe, good for Britain and that means good for the citizens of Europe and Britain and that’s what we’ll intend to do.”
Reacting to Mr Davis's comments, Mr Verfhostadt said: "Great to see that the idea of associate EU citizenship for UK citizens who want it, is also gaining traction in the U.K. government. All the more reason to speed up the withdrawal talks so we can write a new, positive story together."
A study released in July and conducted by academics at the LSE in conjunction will pollsters Opinium found that 60 per cent of the British public want to keep their EU citizenship. Most of these people said they would be willing to pay for the privilege.
Downing Street has previously said the PM wants to find a way to allow British citizens to live and work unhindered in the EU but has shied away from fully backing any associate citizenship proposals.
The Independent first reported the associate citizenship proposals last year, when they began life as an amendment to a report by liberal Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens. The idea promises Brits who live and work across borders a way around the disruption caused by the Leave vote and young people looking to live in the EU more choice over where to move.
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