The European Union has a ‘sneering disregard’ for patriotic Britons, Sir Nick Clegg has finally admitted.
The former Lib Dem leader and arch-Europhile launched an extraordinary attack on the Brussels establishment, according to reports.
In a speech to a think-tank, Sir Nick accepted the pace and scale of EU integration amounted to a ‘terrible misreading’ of the public.
He also accused the architects of the passport-free Schengen zone of ‘shocking naivety’, it was claimed.
The comments amount to a significant U-turn by one of the most pro-EU politicians in recent history.
Sir Nick made the comments to the Lisbon Council in Brussels on Monday night.
The former Lib Dem leader and arch-Europhile (pictured) launched an extraordinary attack on the Brussels establishment during the Lisbon Council in the Belgian capital on Monday
He said when he worked in Brussels there was a ‘barely concealed, almost sneering disregard for the politics of identity and the politics of patriotism’.
‘There was an assumption that patriotism was an old-fashioned vestige of an order that was dying away,’ he said.
‘The genesis of European integration was to go above and beyond the trap of patriotic politics. But it was a terrible misreading of what makes people tick.
‘We are all tribal people. You might not like it, but that’s who we are.’
His comments drew fire from Eurosceptic Tory MPs.
Backbencher Nigel Evans said: ‘This is the Remoaner-in-chief who wanted to integrate the UK in to the EU by stealth without the public knowing.
‘Now he’s basically accepting one of the main reasons why the British people voted to leave the EU.
‘He should say that to the 100 Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords who will be doing their level best to thwart the wishes of the British people. He cannot have it both ways.
‘He fought hard for an EU super-state and he can blame Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk all he likes but ultimately he needs to take a share of the blame himself.’
In a speech to a think-tank, Sir Nick (pictured) accepted the pace and scale of EU integration amounted to a ‘terrible misreading’ of the public. He also accused the architects of the passport-free Schengen zone of ‘shocking naivety’, it was claimed
Sir Nick also admitted in his remarks that his dream of a ‘soft Brexit’ was dead.
He attacked Theresa May and Tory Eurosceptics, saying she was held hostage by the ‘unaccountable Brexit elite’.
‘As of this week ‘soft’ Brexit has ceased to be,’ he said.
‘All that is now left is a wilfully self-harming ‘hard’ Brexit, or no Brexit at all.’
He added: ‘Internationalist liberals are now beginning to understand that while standing for Europe, you must do so wrapped in your own flag.
‘Patriotic Europeanism is a perfectly consistent and compelling school of thought.’
Since he lost his seat in last year’s election, Sir Nick has campaigned for a soft Brexit and a second referendum to try to reverse the first.
The comments amount to a significant U-turn by one of the most pro-EU politicians (pictured) in recent history
In his book on Brexit, he wrote: ‘There is nothing remotely inevitable about Brexit – except that it will be deeply damaging if it happens.’
He sparked further fury among Eurosceptics last year when he travelled to Brussels to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
He and two other Remain supporters, veteran Tory Ken Clarke and Labour peer Lord Adonis, were accused of trying to interfere in Brexit talks.
He has called for Britain to hold a second referendum on the final Brexit deal agreed with Brussels.
In September, he said there should be a second vote because the people who voted Leave were dying off.
He said the ‘high point’ of support had passed because ‘the oldest voters voted for Brexit in the largest numbers’.
And he said MPs were ‘duty-bound’ to reject any Brexit deal if it was not good enough.
Sir Nick also said that he supported Britain joining an ‘outer orbit of membership within a reformed European Union’.
The Europhile entered the Commons in 2005 after years spent working in Brussels.
He took up a post with the European Commission in 1994 and five years later he was elected as a Lib Dem member of the European Parliament.