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

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Former Belgian Prime Minister and liberal MEP Guy Verhoftstadt (European Parliament)

As if the World Cup match between England and Belgium wasn’t already important enough, it’s been given an extra – political – edge after politicians from the two countries stuck the boot into each other.

The clash in Kaliningrad on June 28 is the final game in group C and could be crucial in deciding whether the teams go through to the knockout stage or who they will play.

But the stakes were raised even higher today when UKIP MEP Nigel Farage and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt exchanged taunts like football fans.

The old rivals clashed after current Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel delivered a speech to the European Parliament.

Mr Farage responded with the political equivalent of a two footed tackle – saying that Belgium wasn’t a real country.

“Nobody ever dares tell the truth about Belgium, Belgium is not a nation,” said Mr Farage to heckles.

“It’s an artificial creation, I know the Brits did it, maybe once again we can be blamed.

“But the truth is there are two parts of Belgium, they speak different languages, they dislike each other intensely, there’s no national TV station, there’s no national newspaper, Belgium is not a nation.”

Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, counter attacked on Twitter by pointing to his country’s most unifying and successful institution – its football team.

Belgium are currently ranked 3rd in the world, behind only Germany and Brazil and 10 places above England.

“Today, Nigel Farage said Belgium is not a real country,” Mr Verhofstadt wrote.

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

And, in reference to rumours Mr Farage had applied for a German passport, Mr Verhofstadt added: “But perhaps he’s still exploring German citizenship and will be rooting for “die Mannschaft.”

There was speculation that the former UKIP leader had applied for German citizenship when he was spotted in the queue at the country’s embassy in London.

He has denied that is the case but said recently that two of his children have German passports.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel could only sarcastically thank Mr Farage for his advice on running Belgium.

But he was gifted a scoring chance again team Brexit later when EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker pleaded with him to give Belgian citizenship to British EU officials.

“I’m pleased that there’s so much attractiveness for Belgian citizenship, that there are British citizens who want to join our country,” beamed Mr Michel.

He wouldn’t though make any promises to the approximately 450 UK citizens working for the EU, saying only that he will “look at that from a legal perspective to see what possibilities exist.”

A score draw.