Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said he would not be opposed to plans mooted by MEPs for offering UK nationals a form of “associated citizenship” after Brexit.

The idea would allow British nationals to volunteer individually for EU citizenship, allowing them to continue to work and live on the continent on a similar basis as now.

Mr Juncker, speaking at a town hall event in Malta, said the progress of the idea “will depend on the development of the negotiations” between Britain and the EU.

“It’s not my working assumption that this will happen but I know that mainly the chief negotiator of the European Parliament is asking for this,” Mr Juncker said in reference to MEP Guy Verhofstadt. “It would not disturb me if it happened.”

At the same time, he said, the idea should not be seen as a panacea for Brexit: “This cannot be the answer. It doesn’t take away from the Brexit all of the dangers and the problems.”

He said that the EU’s approach to the exit talks will be to put “citizens first.”

“We want to offer a proper solution,” he said. “The only problem is that when the British went for the referendum they didn’t care.”

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