The Belgian MEP took to social media to fume that the UK and Canada had already imposed sanctions on Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko while Brussels is still squabbling over the issue. Mr Verhofstadt said: “UK and Canada impose sanctions on Lukashenko and his cronies… while the EU is still unable to decide. Unanimity is killing the EU!”
But the tweet prompted a quick response from Brexiteers.
Ex-Brexit Party MEP Belinda de Lucy wrote: “Thank you @guyverhofstadt for highlighting the importance of the nation state being free to impose sanctions swiftly and efficiently outside of supranational shackles. Ahhh to be free.”
Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said: “OMG! For the first time, I agree with @guyverhofstadt! Unanimity is paralysing the EU.
“The EU can only survive as one Federal State. So glad the UK chose Brexit!”
Theresa May’s former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, commented: “It’s one of the many benefits of Brexit, Guy. Thanks for the endorsement.”
Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris simply wrote: “Well, well, well…”
The Bruges Group think tank declared: “Being independent is great!”
Another Twitter user asked: “Penny finally dropping Guy?”
They include an asset freeze and travel ban.
The sanctions also apply to seven other leading figures in his regime.
The UK acted alongside Canada to announce the measures, stating the regime in Belarus is responsible for a string of human rights violations against opposition figures and the media.
Thousands of people in Belarus have taken part in protests against the authoritarian leader’s re-election despite a brutal crackdown by the state’s security forces.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Today the UK and Canada have sent a clear message by imposing sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s violent and fraudulent regime.
“We don’t accept the results of this rigged election.
“We will hold those responsible for the thuggery deployed against the Belarusian people to account and we will stand up for our values of democracy and human rights.”
It is the second time the UK’s new sanctions regime has been used.