Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt stressed the need to protect citizens in reaction to the start of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Any withdrawal agreement concluded would require the approval of the European Parliament to take effect.

President Tajani said:

"The European Parliament's position is clear. Preserving the rights of the millions of EU citizens affected by Brexit, securing the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement for Northern Ireland and honouring the financial commitments made by the British government will be indispensable in securing the European Parliament's approval of a potential exit deal.

Negotiations detailing the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union must now begin in earnest, and I expect that they will be conducted in an orderly manner and in a spirit of co-operation."

Mr Verhofstadt said:

"I am glad that we are sticking to the negotiating timetable which is already quite tight. Let's now, first of all, make progress in the field of citizens' rights and create legal certainty for both our people and our companies."

The European Parliament's priorities

In April, the European Parliament, with an overwhelming majority, adopted a resolution outlining its priorities and conditions for the negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.  MEPs gave absolute priority to fair and equal treatment for EU and British citizens.  They also stressed that the UK will need to meet all of its financial commitments, including those that may run beyond the withdrawal date. MEPs emphasized that the EU's four freedoms – of goods, capital, services and people – are indivisible. Finally, the resolution states that any transitional arrangement must not last longer than three years.