Prisons Minister Rory Stewart found himself performing what may be one of the fastest U-turns in British politics after using a fabricated statistic about public backing for the Prime Minister's Brexit plan.

Mr Stewart, 45, a Theresa May loyalist, was pulled up by BBC Radio 5's Emma Barnett when he claimed in an interview on Thursday morning that "80 per cent of the British public support this deal".

Asked to back up this claim, he first asked for a chance to "get the language right", before saying he had been "producing a number to try to illustrate what I believe" because "the people who are rejecting this are 10 per cent on either fringe".

He then had to admit he did not know how many of the public backed Mrs May's deal, the text of which had only been in the public domain a matter of hours.

Ms Barnett said: "OK, well we went from 80 per cent of people supporting it, to us not knowing yet.

"I think it's a dangerous game when politicians pretend that they know exactly how the people are feeling."

Mr Stewart replied: "I apologise for that, but I do believe - and I totally apologise for that, and I take that back - but I totally feel that if we are given an opportunity to calmly explain this deal, many people who are currently worried about it will be reassured."

In response to the interview, he tweeted: "I really believe that - if people are given the time and the chance to read this document carefully - then the majority (if not eighty percent!) will support it."

Mr Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Border in Cumbria, was made Prisons Minister in January.