An MEP has proposed offering British citizens “associate EU citizenship”, even if Theresa May’s government chooses to block the move. The proposed “associate EU citizen” status would allow British citizens who opt in to the system freedom to live and work throughout Europe. Since 48% of those who voted in the EU referendum were in favour of remaining in Europe, this is likely to be a popular prospect with many.

Charles Goerens, MEP for Luxemburg has stated that this optional EU citizenship should be made available to British citizens, “even if the British Government vetoes the plan during negotiations”. The proposed citizenship status would allow British nationals to travel, live and work freely throughout Europe as they are able to now, while retaining their British passport. It would also allow those citizens who opt in to vote at European parliament.

This would offer some relief to Britons already settled in Europe, and those who fear the UK is distancing itself from European nations with the Brexit move. With trade deals with Australia and the United States on the horizon, those settled in Europe worry that their position will be compromised if their host country is at the bottom of the list.

There have been criticisms that the move could lead to a division between British citizens, which would be divisive and not in line with British values outside of the EU. However, supporters have been vocal in voicing their approval for such a system which would be voluntary and would not impede on any British laws. According to Goerens, there would be no expectation of a reciprocal deal for EU citizens hoping to live in the UK, so there would be no reason for May to veto the move.

Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder said: “The option of being able to retain EU citizenship offers a glimmer of hope for the millions of British people devastated by the referendum result. The fact this proposal is going ahead shows there remains a huge amount of goodwill towards Britain.”