10/07/2017 10:15 BST | Updated 10/07/2017 16:35 BST

European Parliament Will Veto Brexit Deal If EU Citizens' Rights Not Protected, Says Guy Verhofstadt

EU negotiator dismisses 'damp squib' offer.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned Theresa May that MEP’s will reject any deal unless the UK changes its offer on EU citizens’ rights.

Guy Verhofstadt this morning said “at the end, it is the European Parliament who will say yes or no” to the Brexit deal.

“It will not be a yes if rights of EU citizens and rights of UK citizens living on the continent will be diminished,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

The status of EU nationals living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU is one of the first hurdles in the two year long negotiation.

The European Parliament has the ability to veto any Brexit deal agreed between the UK and EU leaders.   

Under May’s plan, EU citizen who has been living in the UK continuously for five years can get the status.

Those who have been resident for less than that period will be also be allowed to stay and then apply for settled status once they have clocked up the necessary time.

Dependent family members - children or parents - who join an EU national in the UK prior to Brexit will also be able to apply once they have been in the country for five years.

After Brexit, EU citizens with settled status will be able to bring family members from overseas on the same terms as British nationals.

In a joint article with a cross-party group of senior MEPs, including Verhofstadt, said May’s plan was a “damp squib” which carried a risk of creating “second-class citizenship”.

“The European Parliament will reserve its right to reject any agreement that treats EU citizens, regardless of their nationality, less favourably than they are at present,” the letter warns.

“This is a question of the basic fundamental rights and values that are at the heart of the European project.”

The MEPs said there were “striking” differences between the UK’s offer and that set out by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier who “wants British people and Europeans to keep the same rights and the same level of protection they currently enjoy”.