Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable was left humiliated after fellow liberal leaders across the EU publicly denied backing a call for a second Brexit referendum hours after the party trumpeted their support.
The Lib Dems initially claimed that eight EU leaders had signed a statement backing demands for the British public to have the final say on any Brexit deal in a second referendum on Europe.
A joint statement from political leaders in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Estonia and the Czech Republic was released after Sir Vince Cable travelled to Brussels for a meeting with fellow liberals on the margins of the European Council.
However, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe group swiftly tweeted: “Pertaining to the LibDem press release issued today on Brexit: at the ALDE leaders meeting of 22 March no statement has been agreed upon or released.”
Sir Vince - who is campaigning for a second referendum on the Brexit deal - had claimed the statement showed that other EU states would “welcome an exit from Brexit with open arms”.
The statement had read: “We regret Brexit, but acknowledge the choice made by British voters for the UK Government to negotiate withdrawal.
“We further acknowledge and support the Liberal Democrats’ call for the British people to have the final say on the Brexit deal.
“All parties need to seek a broad deal accommodating both the position of the UK Government and the principles on which the European Union is built.”
Sir Vince said: “Polls show that there is a growing desire among the British public for a vote on the terms of the deal.
“People can now be reassured that there is no desire among EU leaders to punish us if we decided to remain in the bloc. The message is clear: Brexit is not inevitable.”