A prominent Eurosceptic faces expulsion from the Conservatives' group in the European Parliament after comparing the Parliament's German president to Adolf Hitler's Nazis. Daniel Hannan, a Daily Telegraph leader writer and columnist and scourge of pro-Europeans, provoked uproar in the Parliament by saying the president's new powers reminded him of the Nazis' tactics to rule Germany without parliamentary consent. One angry MEP told Mr Hannan they should settle the dispute "outside". Others booed and yelled at him.
The MEP for South East England was complaining about about a new right granted by the Strasbourg Parliament to its president, Hans-Gert Poettering, to override delaying tactics in the chamber. Mr Hannan told him, "It is only my affection for you... that prevents me from likening this to the Ermaechtigungsgesetz", the Enabling Act of 1933 that gave the German Government special powers.
Joseph Daul, leader of the centre-right EPP group to which Tory MEPs are affiliated, dissociated his group from the remarks and threatened to expel Mr Hannan, the first person in Britain to campaign for a referendum on the new EU treaty. Tory MEPs, who will withdraw from the EPP next year, will decide whether to discipline him today.
Several MEPs challenged David Cameron to condemn Mr Hannan's remarks. Gary Titley, leader of the Labour MEPs, said: "By comparing the ruling with the law that gave Hitler unlimited power, Hannan is dishonoring memories of the victims of terror of the Nazi regime."
Martin Schulz, the German Socialist leader in Strasbourg, said: "People like Hannan are not only not speaking on behalf of conservatives in Europe ; they have no home in the European Parliament. They are entirely isolated. David Cameron should reflect on whether such people so close to right-wing extremists have a place in his party."
Jim Murphy, Britain's minister for Europe, said: "To call someone a Nazi is tasteless. Nazism was a unique evil in human history. To use it as a term of parliamentary debate demeans the memory of those who suffered."
Graham Watson, leader of the multinational Liberal and Democrat group, said: "By comparing a vote today in the European Parliament with a vote in the Reichstag in 1933, UK Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan is plumbing new depths in UK-EU relations and in the Tories' approach to democracy in the EU."
Last night Mr Hannan said: "I do not compare anyone to the Nazis. That would be completely inappropriate and if I have caused any offence by my remarks, I apologise." He added that it would be "fair enough" if he were expelled from the EPP and called for an "amicable divorce" between the Tories and the group. " It is, as I have always maintained, better for us to be friendly neighbours to the EPP than grudging tenants," he said.
Defending the filibustering which resulted in Mr Poettering being granted new powers, he said: "After every vote, a group of us would demand the right to explain, in not more than a minute, why we voted as we did." At worst, the protest had delayed MEPs' lunch by 20 minutes, which was deemed intolerable, he added.
Mr Hannan said: "Whatever else MEPs are, they are not Nazis: many of them have proud records of fighting totalitarianism throughout the world. That is why it was so disappointing to see them resorting to this appalling measure to silence dissent."
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