Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, was in Britain on Friday to campaign for Vince Cable’s Liberal Democrats in the forthcoming European elections. An Opinium poll of 2,004 UK adults over 18 years old between May 8 and 10 published today on voting intentions for the European Parliamentary elections put the Brexit Party on 34 per cent, with Labour 21 per cent and the Tories in fourth place with 11 per cent. Separately, a ComRes survey of 2,034 GB adults carried out online on May 9 of voting intentions for the general election put the Brexit Party on 21 per cent to the Conservatives’ 20, which would see Farage’s team win 49 seats, becoming the UK’s second biggest party after Labour, with 137.
In response to the news, the former Belgian Prime Minister tweeted: “Farage is a long sitting, career MEP in Brussels, with one of the lowest attendance rates.
“He would rather sign in & go to the pub than fight for British interests in Europe.
“Sending him back would be insane!”
Speaking during his visit to the UK, Mr Verhofstadt, 66, who days earlier said he did not know whether Brexit would happen at all, said the poll was a chance to send a message to the continent.
A fly-on-the-wall documentary screened last week showed Mr Verhofstadt’s senior aides shouting “oh **** off” at a television screen which was showing Mrs May’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, during which she stressed she wanted a deal with the EU.
During his trip to the UK, Mr Verhofstadt, who is leader of the Parliament’s Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) group, denied he was interfering in UK politics, stressing he too was a “Lib Dem” who was backing Mr Cable’s party because it opposed Brexit.
He added: “I think it’s important to show that the European liberals and democrats support Vince Cable.
“Support the Lib Dems in this difficult fight in Britain, in these European elections.
“Secondly, we want to show by coming here a message to the continent to say never repeat Brexit again.
“I’m a Lib Dem. It’s natural that people are looking to the Lib Dems when it comes to European elections.
“We want to be the alternative for nationalism and popularism. What I think is there will be a huge support for Remain.
“I’m not here as a Brexit negotiator, I’m here as the leader of the liberals and democrats for Europe.”
Insisting he had a right to campaign in the UK, he said: “This is Europe. Europe, it’s all Europe.”
As for whether the UK would in fact quit the bloc, he said: “I don’t know. It’s a question to ask Mrs May at Westminster.”
Mr Verhofstadt was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009 – ten years after Mr Farage first took his seat.
He has been a frequent critic of the former UKIP leader over the years, most recently on April 29, when he said: “The biggest waste of EU resources is Nigel Farage’s salary.”
Last year he tweeted: “Today, Nigel Farage said Belgium is not a real country. He’ll see how real Belgium is when we play England in the World Cup!
“But perhaps he’s still exploring German citizenship and will be rooting for “die Mannschaft.”