European Parliament contradicts UK claim that citizens' rights deal is in "touching distance" as Brexit negotiations resume

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Verhofstadt (left) has put a spoke in Davis' wheel (Source: Getty)

The European Parliament has contradicted the UK government over its claims that a deal on citizens' rights is in "touching distance" as Brussels and London return to the negotiating table today. 

The European Parliament's Brexit steering group, headed by Guy Verhofstadt, has said the EU does not "recognise reports suggesting that a deal on citizens rights is almost finalised", adding there are still "major issues that have to be resolved". 

The group argues that the main concern is around settled status proposals as published by the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU) this week. It argues that this must become "an automatic process in the form of a simple declaration, not an application which introduces any kind of conditionality (for example a pro-active ‘criminality check’)".

Verhofstadt also argues that the new system must enable families to make one joint declaration, not separate declarations for each individual family member; must place the burden of proof on the UK authorities to challenge the declaration and this only on a case-by-case basis and in line with EU law; and must be cost-free. 

So far the government has promised the system will cost no more than the application for a British passport.

"We insist that UK citizens currently living in the European Union continue to benefit from the freedom of movement after Brexit," the group, which met yesterday, said.  

This will put a spoke in David Davis and his team's wheels, as the UK has been arguing that it is in "touching distance" of a deal on citizens' rights, while making solid progress on Northern Ireland.

It is eager to show that progress is being made on these two areas, as the third "basic" area - the divorce bill - is proving a sticking point that is unlikely to be resolved in time for the next European Council meeting in mid-December.