Michel Barnier has dismissed British claims that EU member states are to blame for the uncertainty over citizens’ rights as the UK prepares to the leave bloc, saying the Brexit is the only source of uncertainty.Calling for a more informed public debate in Britain, Europe’s chief Brexit negotiator said he will adopt a firm stance in the looming negotiation with London.

Mr Barnier said the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit would have to be protected by the European Court of Justice, in defiance of London’s demand that the court’s rule should no longer apply in Britain after it leaves the bloc.

“The only way to remove uncertainty and to protect rights properly is through an Article 50 agreement,” he told an international forum on Europe in Florence, Italy.

In prepared remarks that were dropped from the speech Mr Barnier delivered, he said “all the rest is political hot air that protects no-one.”

Mr Barnier started by saying he would speak in English, drawing applause from his audience hours after Jean-Claude Juncker made of point of speaking in French and saying English was losing its importance in Europe.

The protection of citizens’ right would be both easy and complex at the same time, he said.

“But it will not be easy to formulate all these principles neatly in a legally precise text.”

He said it would not be possible to discuss Europe’s future relationship with Britain unless the 27 remaining member states were reassured that “all citizens” will be treated properly and humanely. “Otherwise, there can be no trust when it comes to constructing a new relationship with the UK.”

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