Verhofstadt Farage
From left: Guy Verhofstadt, Nigel FarageGetty Images

The European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator has welcomed a proposal for Britons to retain the right to live and work in the EU – despite Brexit supporters calling it "divisive" and a way to "subvert the referendum vote".

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister, said he supported the Amendment 882 for "associate citizenship" proposed by Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens, but instead of the scheme being free, he said people would have to pay an annual membership fee.

"Many say 'We don't want to cut our links'," he said according to a report in The Times. "I like the idea that people who are European citizens and saying they want to keep it have the possibility of doing so. As a principle I like it."

But he was sceptical whether there would be consensus over the amendment, which will be considered by the parliament's constitutional affairs committee on 8 December, adding: "I don't know if it will fly or not - there are big differences of view here in the Parliament."

Also pro-Brexit supporters are against the idea, which they argue undermines the referendum vote which saw over 17 million choose to leave the European Union.

Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, said: "It's an attempt to create two classes of UK citizen and to subvert the referendum vote. The truth is that Brussels will try every trick in the book to stop us leaving."

Jayne Adye, director of the Get Britain Out campaign, told The Independent: "This is an outrage. The EU is now attempting to divide the great British public at the exact moment we need unity."

But Goerens argued: "It's clear the UK is divided, and many people want to remain part of Europe.

"The idea is simply to guarantee those who want it some of the same rights they had as full EU citizens, including the right of residence in the EU, and to be able to vote in European elections and be represented by an MEP."