The new Lib Dem leader went out of his way to try to turn Remain and Leave supporters against one another by using some of the most incendiary language since the historic referendum vote last year.
He told a Sunday paper that older voters had “shafted” the young by supporting Brexit.
Critics quickly pointed out that Sir Vince, 74, himself “shafted” the young when as business secretary he trebled tuition fees despite being elected on a promise to abolish them.
To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous. We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language…
Reacting to a poll that claimed 61 per cent of Leavers would see an economy downturn as worth paying to be free of Brussels rule, Sir Vince said: “To describe such masochism as ‘martyrdom’ is dangerous. We haven’t yet heard about ‘Brexit jihadis’ but there is an undercurrent of violence in the language…”
He added that the “selfdeclared martyrs” appeared to be “predominantly elderly”.
He said: “The old have … shafted the young. And the old have had the last word about Brexit, imposing a world view coloured by nostalgia for an imperial past on a younger generation … more comfortable with modern Europe.”
Turning on former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, the former business secretary rebuked the idea that parliamentarian trade envoys who vehemently oppose Brexit should be sacked.
Sir Vince claimed that it will lead to “Brexit thought crimes” and compared Britain to the McCarthyite period in America when there was an attempt to clamp down on Communists.
Labour veteran MP Frank Field said: “Not only is he patronising he is undermining his own base because he must have been elected by older voters.
“Should the minority in Twickenham (Sir Vince’s constituency) who voted against him have the right to a new vote?
“Here we see the birth of Britain’s Donald Trump to lead the Remainers.”
Ukip’s Peter Whittle said: “It is frankly outrageous language to use against those millions of people who voted out.
“But it’s what we’ve come to expect from the Libdems, who simply cannot accept the result, and have shown themselves as neither liberal nor democratic.”