Great Britain

Why are EU so special? Verhofstadt sparks backlash with latest Brexit swipe on immigration

Guy Verhofstadt discusses 'weaknesses' within the EU

And several Twitter users questioned why the MEP believed such people should be treated any differently to illegal immigrants from other parts of the world. Last week, it emerged roughly 30 EU citizens, including German, Greek, Italian, Romanian and Spanish nationals, had been detained in such a way.

Mr Verhofstadt was specifically reacting to a statement by the European Commission yesterday, in which it said the length of detention of some EU nationals in UK immigration removal centres was a “source for concern”.

The former Belgian Prime Minister – who was also the European Parliament’s Brexit representative – tweeted: “I didn't see ‘We will hold young Italians and Spanish citizens in immigration detention centres’ on the side of a red bus. Did you?

“This is an ugly choice and most certainly not what we thought were British values.”

Guy Verhofstadt

Guy Verhofstadt has returned to the subject of Brexit yet again (Image: GETTY)

Poster Twitter

One poster said the detentions had been inevitable (Image: Twitter)

However, plenty pointed out that the way the citizens in question were being dealt with was far from exceptional, and in fact simply mirrored the way non-EU citizens were treated.

One Twitter user posted: “This is how all illegal immigrants are treated.

“As unfair as it is, this is nothing new and why should EU citizens have special treatment?

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UK immigration officials

UK immigration officials (Image: GETTY)

“If they come and attempt to work without the correct paperwork, they should expect detention and deportation.”

Similarly, another added: “It says in the article that this mirrors non-EU citizens.

"Now we have left is this not all the same, under what agreement should special treatment be applied.

“Why would I have to leave the EU after 90 days? I didn't before, evidently denying BREXIT is now an EU thing.”

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Poster Twitter

EU citizens could not expect special treatment, one poster argued (Image: Twitter)

Poster Twitter

Another poster suggested the EU also had a case to answer (Image: United Kingdom)

If you are illegal then what do you expect?!

Twiter user

A third asked: ”If you are illegal then what do you expect?!”

Others advised Mr Verhofstadt to consider why the EU nationals were attempting to enter the UK in the first place.

One said: “What you should be asking is why they are trying to escape the EU for a better life. EU has destroyed the lives of millions of young EU citizens.

“Very high youth unemployment, no training and no hope. EU's answer more immigration & this was before COVID-19.”

Brexit timeline

Brexit timeline (Image: Express)

Stu Maskell asked Mr Verhofstadt: “What would you know about British values? “Thanks for making Brexit happen by the way.”

And George Whitebread commented: “There are detention camps all over the EU full of people who don't have the 'paperwork'. Generally a different coloured skin. Could that be it?”

The Commission’s statement said: “This does not seem to be a generalised trend as a small number of EU citizens are concerned.

“Nevertheless, the EU Delegation is following this case closely, in particular the conditions and the duration of retention, which are a source of concern.”

UK border

Citizens from Spain and Germany were among those detained trying to enter the UK (Image: GETTY)

On Friday, a Spanish woman held in an immigration removal centre close to London was released after four days in detention, although she has not yet had her passport returned.

She had been placed in self-isolation after cases of COVID-19 were detected in the wing of the centre where she was kept.

After Brexit, EU nationals are permitted to enter Britain visa-free for tourism and stay a maximum of 180 days.

However, Border Force can reject entry to EU nationals if it believes they plan to work in the UK but are unable to produce a work visa.

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