"We must avoid an acrimonious D.I.V.O.R.C.E."

The European Parliament's Brexit negotiator, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, has clarified his initiative to write a joint letter to the people of the United Kingdom together with the leaders of 4 other groups in the EP. Mr Verhofstadt wants to stress at the outset that any limitation of the rights of EU citizens in the UK would not be acceptable. Moreover he hopes to prevent negotiators facing a fait accompli in 2919.

Mr Verhofstadt stresses that pro-European groups in the EP won't accept EU citizens in the UK being relegated to second class citizens. The liberal group leader claims that current UK proposals fly in the face of promises made by Brexiteers not to limit EU citizens' rights. Mr Verhofstadt is also worried about what he calls bureaucratic interference by the UK. All EU citizens in the UK will have to initiate a procedure to show that they have been living in the UK in order to obtain settled status. "This is second class status" says Mr Verhofstadt as family reunification will become more difficult and EU citizens will lose the vote in local elections.

EP leaders want EU citizens to continue to enjoy the rights they have today without any administrative hassle and no limitation. A similar offer is being made to Britons in the rump-EU. Guy Verhofstadt: "We guarantee to British citizens that they will retain existing rights."

The EP's Brexit negotiator rejects any eye-for-an-eye approach stressing it's not because the UK wants to limit the rights of EU citizens that the EU will wish to do the same to the million Brits on the continent.: "The European Parliament and democracy were not created to limit citizens’ rights, but to guarantee them."

Mr Verhofstadt also issues a threat: "The EP will not approve a deal that limits the rights of citizens."

He also compares the UK's exit from the EU to a divorce: a financial settlement is needed: "You can't leave your partner with a bill" he adds. "An acrimonious divorce must be avoided."