Guy Verhofstadt says it would be possible for Britain to rejoin the EU
Guy Verhofstadt said it was "always possible" for the UK to be welcomed back if, as many European officials suspect, the decision to withdraw proves to be a disaster for Britain.
It might even be possible to fast track the application back into the Brussels' bosom, he suggested.
Speaking to Al Jazeera English's UpFront programme, the former Belgian prime minster said: “They [Britain] can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union.
“Certainly, we have enough experience to make it a little bit a faster process than what is normal."
Mr Verhofstadt also reiterated the EU's stance over Brexit, saying no deal should leave Britain in a better position outside the union than in.
He said: "You can never have outside the European Union a better status than as member of the European Union."
He also said it would be “technically impossible” for the UK to wrap up a new trade deal with the EU while at the same time negotiating its own terms of divorce.
Theresa May has signalled Britain will be seeking a hard Brexit
They can always reintroduce a request for membership of the European Union. Certainly, we have enough experience to make it a little bit a faster process than what is normal.
Guy Verhofstadt MEP
Asked why he thought Britain voted to leave the EU in June, Mr Verhofstadt agreed with host Mehdi Hasan’s suggestion that a “little Englander” attitude had prevailed and fears over migration had swung the campaign in Leave's favour.
He said: “That’s maybe a good explanation.
“Mainly the migration. It’s very clear.”
The federalist’s comments once again lay bare the choppy waters that lie ahead for Britain’s Brexit negotiators once Article 50 is triggered.
This month Prime Minister Theresa May finally outlined her Brexit plans in greater detail, suggesting Britain would not be seeking a fudged “half-in, half-out” compromise over the single market and would be leaving to strike trade deals with third parties.
But she warned the EU not to seek a “punitive” agreement that would undermine Britain’s future relationship with Europe.
But despite her words, there remains a lingering belief amongst some EU chiefs that driving a hard bargain may yet convince the UK to row back on some Brexit pledges – or even abandon the plan entirely.
A senior British official told the Telegraph: “In their hearts, some of them still hope we won’t go through with it.”