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Farage clashes with Verhofstadt over claims of Russian influence on Brexit

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
UKIP leader Nigel Farage (Getty)

A war of words has erupted between Nigel Farage and Guy Verhofstadt over claims of Russian influence in European politics – including the Brexit vote.

Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, has accused Farage of being part of a Kremlin-backed “fifth column” within Europe.

Farage has described the accusation as a “baseless lie” and called on Verhofstadt to withdraw it.

The latest in the long line of clashes between the pair was sparked when Verhofstadt used a speech in the European Parliament to accused a number of high-profile populist leaders of being “cheerleaders of Putin.”

As well as Farage, he named Marine Le Pen of the French Front National and Geert Wilders of the Dutch far-right Freedom party.

“They take the money from the Kremlin, they take the intelligence of the Kremlin,” claimed the leader of the Parliament’s liberal group.

He also said Leave.EU donor Arron Banks had “colluded” with the Russian government to achieve the pro-Brexit vote – a claim he repeated on Twitter.

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Verhofstadt’s claim comes after the Observer reported Banks had multiple meetings with Russian embassy officials in the run up to the 2016 referendum.

Farage wasn’t at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to respond to the allegation in person but hit back on social media, insisting he has never received either financial or political support from Russia.

UKIP MEP Raymond Finch went further, calling Verhofstadt a “conspiracy theorist who deserves our pity.”

“EU federalist fanatic Guy Verhofstadt is just lashing out, incapable or unwilling to accept that the British people voted to leave the EU,” he added.

Farage and Verhofstadt also clashed recently over the World Cup.

Farage said Belgium was not a real country because of the difference in language and identity between its three regions.

Verhofstadt replied: “He’ll see how real Belgium is when we play England in the World Cup!”

MORE: Verhofstadt says ‘wait for the World Cup’ after Farage puts the boot in Belgium