TIM Farron was blasted for “wanting Brexit to fail” as he defended calls for another referendum on Britain’s final European Union deal.
The Europhile came under fire as Andrew Neil tore into his “hopes” for the UK to land a bad deal so he could “reopen the debate to Remain”.
The Lib Dem leader appeared on a special BBC debate aired after Theresa May’s first interview since triggering Article 50.
The Prime Minister labelled the start of Britain’s divorce from the Brussels club as “historic” as she insisted there was now “no turning back”.
Mr Farron, however, argued it was a “democratic right” for Brits to be given the final say on whether to reject any deal Mrs May manages to secure.
The comments prompted host Neil to thunder: “You need the Brexit talks to fail, don’t you? You want them to fail.”
The Remain MP defended his stance, responding: “I don’t, I want us to be as close to Europe as humanly possible, if we believe the rhetoric Theresa May has come out with today then she apparently wants that too.
“And we want a deal going forward that allows us to stay close to Europe.”
Neil retorted: “Surely your position is you want them to fail because if they fail, you can reopen the position again and perhaps this time get your way, win this time rather than losing like last time.
“If they don’t fail, you don’t win.”
Undeterred, Mr Farron argued he had been “sceptical” of some parts of the EU but insisted it was “massively important” to remain together.
“My sense is the European Union and the commission, in particular, has got lots wrong with it,” he continued.
“I’ve spent most of my time in politics being somebody who is genuinely sceptical about what the commission does.
“But the idea of Europe and the unity of 28 countries that were once at war – that is massively important.
“Whether they succeed or fail the idea of 28 countries working together is a good thing.”
The Lib Dems’ repeated calls for a second referendum was also scolded by Paul Nuttall, who sat alongside Mr Farron during Wednesday’s debate.
The Ukip leader said: “If we went down your line Tim, and we committed to another referendum at the end of the deal, I can guarantee you now that the European Union would ensure we got the worse deal possible to ensure that we voted to stay and reject it.
“What this is, is a game to ensure that we stay in.”