Eurosceptic firebrand Nigel Farage has been accused of being a coward for not contesting a seat at the general election on 8 June.

The claim was made against the former Ukip leader by top German MEP Manfred Weber in the EU Parliament on Wednesday 17 May.

"He's not standing for parliament and this is a cowardly decision," the leader of the pro-EU European People's Party said.

Weber also boldly claimed that populism across Europe had been "defeated" in the wake of Marine Le Pen's loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential election.

He went on to brand Brexit as "disaster" for the UK and warned that it would "bring much danger".

The comments came during a plenary session of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. Farage used the debate to declare that UK democracy would not be "crushed" by Brussels.

"Perhaps Mr [Yanis] Varoufakis [the former Greek finance minister] is right when he says about negotiating with the EU – 'it is a technocracy that is desperately clinging onto its own exorbitant and illegitimate power'.

"You may have crushed Greek democracy two years ago, you ain't going to do it to us."

The exchange comes as the two-year-long Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK begin. Theresa May said she called the general election to strengthen her hand at the negotiating table with Brussels, a move that has seen the Ukip opinion poll rating drop to as low as 3%.

The party secured more than 3.8 million votes and a 12.6% share of the vote at the 2015 general election, But with the Brexit vote secure, the party's voters are going to the Conservatives and Farage has decided not to run after his defeat to the Tories in South Thanet.

Ukip will field only 377 candidates across the UK at the election, with many local branches backing pro-Brexit Conservative hopefuls.