Brussels, June 28 (IANS) Nigel Farage of Britain on Tuesday was booed in the European Parliament after he insulted fellow members in an extraordinary exchange in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Any hopes of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader adopting a more conciliatory tone before the difficult negotiations that lie ahead were dashed by his belligerent speech to a highly charged emergency session of the European Parliament in Brussels, the Guardian reported.
After an initially “on the face of it” warm embrace between Farage and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, things rapidly deteriorated into open hostility, as the former Luxembourg Prime Minister demanded of the UKIP leader: “You were fighting for the exit, the British people voted in favour of the exit. Why are you here?”
Farage laughed off the comments before launching an astonishing attack on his colleagues that drew boos and heckles.
Rising to his feet, Farage began by sarcastically thanking his fellow Members of European Parliament (MEPs) “for the warm welcome” before landing his first blow: “When I came here 17 years ago and said I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?”
“And the reason you’re so upset, the reason you’re so angry, has been perfectly clear from all the angry exchanges this morning. You, as a political project, are in denial. You are in denial that your currency is failing.”
Despite urging a “grown-up” conversation between the EU and Britain, Farage continued in a similarly mocking vein throughout his monologue, at one point telling MEPs: “Virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives.”
Amid uproar, European Parliament President Martin Schulz tried to restore order while himself taking a dig at Farage. He told MEPs: “I understand that you are emotional, but you’re acting like UKIP normally acts in the chamber. So please don’t imitate them.”
His efforts did little to calm the atmosphere as Farage went on to tell MEPs that any attempt to impose trade barriers on the UK would backfire, pointing out German car assembly workers as being among those who would suffer.
He said Britain could be “your greatest friend”, provided the EU did not thwart its global ambition.
The UK should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty soon to begin its withdrawal from the EU, Farage said. “I don’t think we should spend too long doing it.”
The former broker said people were sick of “merchant bankers, multinationals and big politics” controlling them and gleefully predicted that more EU countries would follow Britain in leaving the bloc.
He was booed as he sat down and a number of MEPs turned their backs on him.
The first person to speak after Farage was Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National party, who hailed Britain’s decision as the beginning of a “people’s spring”.
But a number of MEPs who followed were not so complimentary.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said: “I am shocked, Mr. Farage. You are presenting yourself as the defender of the little man, while you have an offshore financial construction.”
As Farage laughed, Verhofstadt added: “OK, let’s be positive, we are getting rid of the biggest waste of EU budget: your salary.”