The former deputy prime minister was blasted by Andrew Marr as the Lib Dem once argued for Britain not to sever all ties with the European Union and to criticise her decision to take the UK out of the single market.
The Remain MP warned viewers the Government was on course for a “painful collision with reality”.
He told the BBC One programme: “This is now very early days. This is the easy bit where the Government sets out its stall."
Andrew Marr blasted Nick Clegg for "wishing Brexit never happened"
You wish the vote hadn’t happened and you wish you could reverse it
He continued: “What will now happen is there will be a collision – in my view possibly quite a painful collision – with reality, with negotiating with 27 governments and parliaments and also a collision with the contradiction of the Government’s own position.”
Despite optimism from many over Donald Trump’s promise to secure a fast US-UK trade deal – Mr Clegg said he wasn’t so optimistic.
As Theresa May gears up to meet President Trump for the first time in Washington on Friday, the former Lib Dem leader said no trade deal with America can replace the single market.
The former deputy prime minister was appearing on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday
“This week lots of people saying, ‘Oh isn’t it great we’re going to have this new trade agreement with America’. No trade agreement with America, no matter how ambitious, can replace or match what we are potentially going to lose on our own doorstep in Europe,” he furiously told the BBC One programme.
“If you double the trade with America, with Canada, with New Zealand with Australia and India, double trade with all those huge countries, you still would not trade as much as we do with our nearest neighbours in the European Union.”
“The reason for that is because geography still counts. Countries tend to trade most, in goods at least, with countries nearest to them.”
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Nick Clegg said no deal with Trump's America could replace the loss of single market access
The Sheffield Hallam MP was soon interrupted by the veteran broadcaster who questioned what the Liberal Democrats, with just nine MPs in the Commons, could do to challenge Brexit.
“You are very clear, you wish the vote hadn’t happened and you wish you could reverse it somehow – but how can you actually have any affect on this?
“You may do very well in council by-elections, but how can you possible change anything,” Marr asked.
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An under-pressure Mr Clegg was then forced to admit he would have to apologise if the Government’s plans to forge a new trade deal with the EU came to fruition.
“If a highly complex free-trade agreement is negotiated and signed and sealed and done and dusted within 18 months then of course, people like me should have the humility to say we were wrong,” he conceded.
“But here’s the fundamental contradiction, whether we like it or not, the single market is the biggest destination of our goods and services, it’s a market place of rules, even if we’re out of it, we’ll still have to abide by those rules.
“Once that becomes clear I think the British public will start having some doubts.”