MEPs from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party have kicked off their time in the European parliament by turning their backs on the EU’s anthem during the legislature’s opening ceremony.
The Brexiteers carried out the protest as “Ode to Joy” played on Tuesday morning to open the new parliamentary session in Strasbourg.
They were far from the only delegation to pull a stunt, however. The newly enlarged Liberal Democrat contingent from the UK turned up to the first sitting of the parliament wearing identical yellow “Stop Brexit” T-shirts.
Richard Corbett, a long-serving Labour MEP, said the Brexiteers “think they’re being clever by standing with their backs to the chair at the opening session”, adding that the move “looks pathetic and [has] not impressed anyone”.
Speaking outside the parliament, Nigel Farage issued a warning to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt about Brexit.
“I don’t believe a word they say but I will give them this warning – if they don’t deliver Brexit on [31 October] they’re toast and we’ll see a turquoise takeover,” he told reporters.
The opening session of the new parliament, which was elected last month but sat for the first time on Tuesday, was riddled by stunts from different MEPs from across the continent.
Catalan MEPs brought pictures of separatist political prisoners barred from sitting in the parliament, while MEPs from the left group bought signs denouncing the criminalisation of search and rescue in the Mediterranean and called for an end to Fortress Europe.
The newly elected European parliament is set to elect its new president on Wednesday. Unusually, it is sitting while the 28 EU leaders are meeting in Brussels desperately trying to agree on their nomination for European Commission president.
The council’s nominee will have to be put before the parliament, which can accept or reject it with a majority vote.
The new parliament has more greens and liberals in, and a consolidated far-right contingent. While the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) is still the largest group, its presence has shrunk substantially.
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