The break-up of Britain is now “more likely than not” because of the “Brexit demon,” Nick Clegg has said.

In his first print interview - in the New Statesman - since leaving politics and becoming Facebook’s head of global affairs and communications in October 2018, the former Deputy Prime Minister said: “It seems to me that the clock is now ticking for the end of the Union of the United Kingdom.

“I am afraid I’ve sort of come to the view that is now more likely than not. The Brexit demon has unleashed such an aggressive and regressive right-wing English nationalism. And that the Conservative Party is converting itself into an English nationalist party.

“It has so little representation in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and they have to compete with Farage. So the Conservative Party is condemned – whoever is leader – to be pulled in an ever more English and divisive direction.”

Commenting on Boris Johnson, who seems set to become prime minister next week, the former Liberal Democrat leader said: “The more you see of him, the less impressive he is. With familiarity, he diminishes.”

Mr Clegg, who lost his Sheffield seat at the 2017 General Election, predicted that the Tory leadership frontrunner would call an early election in an attempt to prove his political popularity. “He’s going to really scratch away at that itch because that’s all he has got,” he added.

In response, Liberal Democrat backbencher Alistair Carmichael, the former Scottish Secretary in the Lib-Con coalition, said: “The Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK is a precious thing that you don’t play fast and loose with.

“The truth of the matter is that the Tories have been doing that for years, you see the polling, I think it was 60 per cent of Tory members said that the breakup of the Union would a be a price worth paying for Brexit; that’s crazy.”

The Orkney and Shetland MP stressed: “It does show just how far removed Ruth Davidson and her colleagues are from the little Englanders in Downing Street.”

Pressed on whether he agreed with Mr Clegg’s language, Mr Carmichael replied: “I don’t share his judgement, I don’t think that we are there yet.

“The lesson that most people are drawing in Scotland from Brexit is just how difficult and messy it gets when you start to unpick political and economic unions.

“If it’s difficult to break up a union that you’ve been part of for 40 years what an earth would it be like to break up a union that has stood for 300 years?” he added.