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Come back and LOSE all benefits: Verhofstadt warns if UK returns to EU it will be PUNISHED

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Guy Verhofstadt told MEPs that the UK would “find an open door” if it decided to change its mind over Brexit, but warned that the decision to leave meant it had forfeited its special status in the bloc which has long enraged other members.

He made the remarks after the newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron told Theresa May that European capitals are still open to the possibility of Britain rejoining in light of her election defeat, which eurocrats see as a rejection of hard Brexit.

The UK enjoyed a series of high-profile opt outs as part of its membership of the EU, particularly on the Schengen free movement zone, the euro and security matters, and also received a £4 billion a year rebate which was a source of huge contention with other members.

Brussels had long been planning to water down or remove the rebate – which was never written into the treaties – altogether but the UK had an effective veto on such a decision, because it could block the EU’s budget plans in retaliation.