Belgian outrage over tirade by MEP Nigel Farage

Former Ukip leader may be disciplined for 'insulting and disrespectful' remarks

There is an old right-wing prejudice in Britain that Belgium does not exist. In Margaret Thatcher's day, Downing Street officials would say so privately – but they at least had the common sense not to repeat such comments when in Belgium.

No such sense of decorum has inhibited Nigel Farage, a UK Independence Party MEP and former leader of the party, who has detonated a diplomatic row by telling the Belgians that they live in a "non-country" during a tirade directed at the Belgian-born EU President Herman van Rompuy.

Mr Farage is well-known for his outbursts against the EU. But he exceeded even his usual standard of bluntness on Wednesday when he told a visibly shocked Mr van Rompuy that he had the charisma of a "damp rag" and the looks of a "low-grade bank clerk".

Over boos Mr Farage added: "I have no doubt that it is your intention to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and of the European nation states. You appear to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states; perhaps that is because you come from Belgium, which of course is pretty much a non-country."

His comments provoked a letter of complaint from Belgium's Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, to the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek. "As a Belgian politician, I must react against this damaging intervention... and the impolite comments about Belgium," Mr Leterme protested. He called on Mr Buzek to end "these kinds of incidents" in a bid to protect "the interests of my citizens, which cannot be underestimated".

Ivo Belet, a Belgian Christian Democrat MEP, added: "His comments on Belgium are beyond the pale, especially given how much he seems to enjoy his Brussels life and its restaurants. He's been here for many years so it can't be so bad."

Mr Farage, who is standing in Buckingham against the Speaker, John Bercow, at the general election, has been summoned to see Mr Buzek on Tuesday, when he could face disciplinary action. Mr Buzek's spokeswoman said: "The president would like to see vivid political debate but he will not tolerate that this chamber is disrespected, that people in it are personally insulted or comments about anyone's personal appearance."

The view that Belgium is a "non-country" is taken seriously by Eurosceptics both in UKIP and on the right wing of the Conservative Party. They argue that there is no Belgian nation but only separate groups of French speakers and Dutch speakers living in an artificial kingdom who do not have the same patriotic objections that the British would have to seeing their country absorbed in an EU superstate.

Hergé et al: Famous Belgians

Leo Baekeland (1863 –1944) Chemist who invented Bakelite.

Jean-Claude Van Damme (1960-present) Action movie star.

Georges Remi, aka Hergé (1907–83) Cartoonist. His politics were suspect but his creation, Tintin, lives on.

Léopold-Louis-Philippe-Marie-Victor (1835–1909) Belgian king whose plundering of the Congo inspired Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, which in turn inspired the film Apocalypse Now.

René Magritte (1898–1967) Surrealist painter.

Eddy Merckx (1945–date) Cyclist.

Jean 'Django' Reinhardt (1910–53) Guitarist who, with violinist Stéphane Grappelli, was an early star of jazz.

Adolphe Sax (1814–1894) Designer of world's first saxophone.

Georges Simenon (1903-89) One of the world's most prolific authors, His 500-plus books include the Maigret detective novels.

Jacques Brel (1929–78) Singer-songwriter who has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project