Brexit Party MEPs branded 'pathetic' for turning their back on EU anthem
Brexit Party MEPs have been branded “pathetic” for turning their back on the EU anthem in the European Parliament.
MPs from across the political spectrum made clear their anger at the stunt, which took place as MEPs took their seats in Strasbourg for their first official day in their new roles.
The Brexit Party had 29 MEPs elected in May, and they wasted no time in making their oppositon to the EU clear by facing the other way as internationally-renowned saxophone quartet Quatuor Avena performed Beethoven's Ode To Joy. They had initially refused to stand up for the anthem.
Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: “Brexit Party MEPs turning their backs on Europe, as they do their best to isolate the UK from the world.
“This is petty, small-minded little England at its worst. These plonkers do a proud and open nation a disservice. Shame on them.”
Independent MP Luciana Berger said: “This is beyond pathetic. My two-year-old behaves better.”
And Tory MP Nigel Adams tweeted: “Congrats to The Brexit Party for embarrassing yourselves. Very un-British and childish. Grow up.”
Labour’s Chris Evans called it “pathetic, rude, embarrassing”, his colleague Wes Streeting labelled it a “shameful display”, and fellow MP Paula Sherriff added: “Embarrassing. I apologise on behalf of my great country”
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “Already embarrassing themselves, childish, infantile and truly pathetic stuff.....”
And Labour MEP Seb Dance added: “Ukip did exactly the same five years ago: turned their backs on the young musicians of the Strasbourg Philharmonic.
“The Brexit Party is just the same old embarrassing waste of space as Ukip.”
'NOT A GREAT LOOK FOR OUR COUNTRY'
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat MEPs also came under fire for arriving in the European Parliament chamber with bright-yellow shirts emblazoned with “Stop Brexit” and “B****cks to Brexit” written on them.
Labour MP and ardent Brexiteer Kate Hoey branded the Lib Dems “pathetic”, while Tory MP Nicholas Soames called on both sets of MEPs to “grow up”, tweeting: “Truly pathetic oafish childish behaviour by Brexit and Liberal MEPs.”
His fellow Conservative Paul Masterton echoed that view, saying: “Lib Dem and Brexit Party MEPs - two sides of the same coin”
And another Tory, James Heappey, tweeted: “This is not a great look for our country. One political party turns their back on the opening ceremony, another rocks up in t-shirts saying ‘b***cks’ to the views of 52% of the UK population.
“We need to get all this sorted as quickly as frickin’ possible.”
But the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted approvingly, posting a picture of one of the MEPs wearing their t-shirt sat in front of him alongside a smiley face.
Today is the official opening of the new five-year session of the European Parliament, but with a Brexit delaine of October 31 it remains unclear how long the UKs MEPs will serve in it.
In response a Brexit Party spokesman rubbished suggestions they had behaved disrespectfully, saying the MEPSs had shown “dignified defiance” with their protest.
He said they would “never insult a nation” by turning their back, but rejected the idea the EU, despite having a flag and an anthem, was a nation in the same way the France or Germany are.
And he added his party had “not turned up with t-shirts with swear words on them” as the Lib Dem MEPs had, but Luisa Porritt, deputy leader of her party’s delegation, said: “Lib Dem MEPs were elected to stop Brexit. We are delighted our message was heard across Europe today.
“In stark contrast to the Brexit Party's disrespectful and childish behaviour, we had a wonderful reception from fellow Europeans across the Parliament."
And a Lib Dem source said: “We will not turn our back on our voters or our values and Lib Dem MEPs will work every day to stop Brexit.”