The former Belgian Prime Minister hinted the EU wouldn’t discuss a trade deal until the estimated £85billion divorce bill was settled as he described talks between both sides as a “phoney war”.
“Cool heads” were needed, he said, after a Downing Street dinner between Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker nosedived.
But despite demanding unity, Mr Verhofstadt appears keen to undermine the British Government, with promises to propose a special visa for remain voters so they can gain access to the EU.
Writing a column in the Financial Times, the former Prime Minister of Belgium said the “early challenge” would be to find an agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, which would “not necessarily be easy or quick to resolve”.
He added: “It is also important that, as the European Parliament has requested, EU negotiators propose a form of citizenship for UK citizens who want to maintain their link to the EU after Brexit.”
And he hinted the EU will be playing hardball.
Britain was trying to get out of paying its “bar bill” and it would be “wrong” to leave it for EU taxpayers, he said.
He issued a thinly-veiled threat that Brexit trade talks wouldn’t start until the divorce bill was settled.
He wrote in the Financial Times: “The debate about a financial settlement is likely to be complex and heated. The EU will not seek to punish the UK or demand one more euro than is due. As Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, has made clear: Brexit will be punishment enough.
“Yet, it is only fair that the UK agrees to pay its share of outstanding legal and budgetary commitments and liabilities.
“It is unlikely that the European Parliament will agree to start discussions about a future relationship, unless a rock-solid arrangement addressing these issues is in sight, which is effective, enforceable, non-discriminatory and comprehensive.”
Mr Verhofstadt, who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2009, said he is confident a Brexit deal “remains more likely than unlikely”, but only if the bickering stopped.
He said: “Soon, the phoney war will be over.
“I am confident the gulf between the EU and the UK government can be bridged, but achieving this will require cool heads, a dose of reality, a dash of common sense and an acknowledgment that a failure to reach a deal would not be in the long-term political or economic interests of either side.”