European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called on Belgium to grant citizenship to British EU staff in Brussels after Brexit. He said nearly 1,000 Britons will lose their EU citizenship with Britain leaves the bloc next March.

Juncker appealed directly to Belgian Prime Minster Charles Michel during a debate in the European Parliament. He said: “I would also like the Belgian authorities to demonstrate the same generosity when it comes to conferring Belgian nationality on the British officials who are here in Brussels. They deserve it. They deserve it. But, as I know that the prime minister is sometimes extremely generous, I am absolutely sure that he will take our wishes and remarks into account.”

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Juncker last month gave British staff an assurance that they would not be fired once they cease to meet a normal criterion for getting an EU job, namely being an EU citizen.

Belgium can confer citizenship to people who live there for five years. But some Britons who have lived in Brussels for years, even decades, have had requests rejected on the grounds that, as EU staff, they fail Belgian residency tests because they have quasi-diplomatic status outside the local tax system.

In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted Michel’s reply. He said he was “happy that Belgian citizenship is so attractive,” but added that it was difficult for Belgian authorities to tackle citizenship applications amid “contradictory jurisprudence”.

Michel nonetheless assured Juncker that his government would look into the issue.