The UK finally left the European Union on December 31 and took back control of its money, law and borders. Freedom of movement between the UK and Europe also ended and EU citizens have less than six months to apply to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). Almost five million EU citizens have already applied to stay in Britain, and the Belgian MEP has demanded the UK Government does more – including funding their residence.
His comments came after it emerged the Home Office is providing up to £2000 in support for those who do not wish to stay in the UK under the voluntary returns scheme.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Verhofstadt said: “Their loss is our gain! The sensible step would be to pay EU workers to stay, not leave.
“This UK Government still does not understand the positive contribution EU citizens can make to Britain!”
The remarks by the arch-Europhile have triggered a backlash on social media, with users pointing out this had nothing to with him and the UK Government was just providing another option for citizens.
One user wrote: “It is not your business anymore. You don’t get this.”
In response, a second added: “Don’t understand the outrage, this is sensible and supportive from the government.
“The UK is now outside of the EU so let EU nationals choose if they want to remain or go back into EU countries.”
Meanwhile, a third added: “Providing financial support to EU workers who decide they don’t want to apply for EUSS status is the responsible thing to do….. its not an incentive to leave, it is supporting those who decided they want to leave…. ensuring they have the means to travel and set up in the EU.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Some people may choose not to obtain status under EUSS and may not wish to remain in the UK after the deadline.
“That is why we have written to stakeholders to inform them that EEA nationals who wish to leave the UK may now be eligible for support to help them do so under the voluntary returns scheme.”