The European legislature will not agree to give Britain access to Europe’s single market if it blocks free access to EU immigrants, according to the European Parliament’s new Brexit negotiator.

Guy Verhofstadt told a news conference at the Strasbourg legislature on September 13 that the four basic freedoms under EU treaties – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour – cannot be separated.

“If the UK wants to remain a part of the single market, it will also have to accept the free movement of our citizens because in the opinion of the parliament these four freedoms of the Union are inseparable,” he said.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and leading supporter of closer EU integration, was appointed by party leaders last week to represent the parliament in negotiations on Brexit. Parliament will have to approve any final deal.

Verhofstadt also urged the British government to trigger formal negotiations with Brussels as soon as possible so that they could be completed before the next EU parliament is elected in mid-2019. “I cannot imagine that we can start the next legislative cycle without agreement,” he said.

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