Brexit Party politicians turn their backs in protest against musicians playing the EU anthem
Reuters / Vincent Kessler
- Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs during a rendition of the European anthem on the opening day of the European Parliament.
- The Brexit Party's 29 MEPs faced the back wall while musicians played Beethoven's Ode To Joy.
- The European Parliament's president Antonio Tajani admonished them, saying: "If you listen to the anthem of another country you rise to your feet."
- Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories.
LONDON - Nigel Farage and Brexit Party MEPs staged a protest against the opening of the European Parliament by turning their backs during an orchestrated rendition of the EU's official anthem.
The party's 29 new MEPs staged their demonstration as a saxophone quartet and an opera singer performed Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Farage tweeted afterwards that his nascent movement had "already made its presence felt." A group of UKIP MEPs performed the same stunt in 2014 when Farage led the group.
Before the performance began, the European Parliament's president Antonio Tajani rebuked the MEPs who had not immediately risen to their feet.
He said: "[It] is a question of respect; it doesn't mean that you necessarily share the views of the European Union. If you listen to the anthem of another country you rise to your feet."
Watch: Brexit Party MEPs turn backs during European anthem
Richard Corbett, Labour's leader in the European Parliament later described the move as "pathetic" in a tweet.
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."
Conservative MP Nicholas Soames tweeted: "Truly pathetic oafish childish behaviour by Brexit and Liberal MEPs #growup."
The Brexit Party's representatives come as part of a cohort of 73 British MEPs who have arrived in Brussels several months after Britain was originally scheduled to leave the EU. All would be required to vacate their seats on October 31 if Britain leaves according to the new Article 50 deadline.
Farage, whose grouping picked up the most seats in May's European elections, said: ""We are here to be defiant. We shouldn't be here at all.
"We are hoping we are only going to be here until October 31. And if we have to stay longer than that they'll know we're here."
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the candidates in the running to replace Theresa May as prime minister in late July, have both pledged to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if Brussels refuses to renegotiate the current withdrawal agreement. Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race, has pledged to take Britain out on October 31 regardless of whether parliament has approved the decision.
'Bollocks to Brexit'
Meanwhile, MEPs from the Liberal Democrats, which has a record 16 MEPs, took their seats wearing yellow t-shirts which read "Bollocks to Brexit," the party's campaign slogan, on the back, and "Stop Brexit" on the front.
Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MEP, denied that the slogan was crude.
He said that when European colleagues told him he would only be in Strasbourg for a few months, "I say no. 'I am here for five years. Bollocks to Brexit.' And I get the same reaction every time: a big smile. It's amazing how well 'Bollocks to Brexit' translates into 24 different languages."
Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain's departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider's political reporters. Join here.