Britain welcome to return to the EU if it regrets leaving

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Britain could be put on a fast-track process to rejoin the EU if it wanted to reapply for membership, the chief Brexit negotiator of the European Parliament has claimed.

Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said it would be ‘always possible’ for a future British government to come back into the bloc if it regretted leaving.

The staunch federalist added that a British request for membership could be dealt with ‘a little bit faster than normal’.

Referring to the UK, Mr Verhofstadt told Al-Jazeera: ‘They can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union.’

When asked during the interview what drove the Brexit vote, Mr Verhofstadt replied: ‘Mainly the migration.[sic] It’s very clear.’

The Brussels veteran is thought to represent a widespread feeling in EU institutions that the UK will regret Brexit and rapidly want to come back into the fold.

‘In their hearts, some of them still hope we won’t go through with it,’ a senior British official with knowledge of the negotiations told The Telegraph.

Mr Verhofstadt’s appointment as chief negotiator was bitterly criticised by leading Brexiteers, who see him as a Brussels insider who despises Eurosceptics.

Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, described the Belgian as a ‘fanatical’ federalist who ‘hates everything we stand for’.

Mr Verhofstadt recently clashed with Boris Johnson over his jibe comparing the French president to a Nazi guard administering ‘punishment beatings’.

The Foreign Secretary had been asked about Francois Hollande allegedly wanting to punish Britain for its Brexit decision.

Mr Verhofstadt quickly branded the comments ‘abhorrent’ and later suggested in an article for the Guardian that ‘no European leader has called for this’.

The spirit of Mr Johnson’s remark echoed Theresa May’s speech last week, when she warned the EU it would be an act of ‘calamitous’ self-harm to refuse a trade deal.

But Mr Verhofstadt, the former Belgian premier, said on Twitter: ‘Yet more abhorrent & deeply unhelpful comments from @BorisJohnson which PM May should condemn.’