Pro-Brexit MEPs turn backs on EU anthem

Published 03.07.2019 00:15

Members of the U.K.'s Brexit Party turned their backs on the European anthem as the European Parliament opened its inaugural session in the eastern French city of Strasbourg Tuesday with newly elected British Members of European Parliament (MEP) still in their ranks.

The 751-seat parliament, based in Strasbourg, France, is more fragmented than ever after a vote in May that saw solid gains by the liberals and Greens as well as the far-right and euroskeptics in the 751-seat chamber.

With Brexit delayed until as late as Oct. 31, the deep political divisions in Britain were on full display in the eastern French city as 73 British MEPs arrived at parliament. Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage, a veteran of the EU chamber since 1999, led the charge as his MEPs turned their backs when asked to stand for the EU anthem, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," at the start of the session.

"The Brexit Party has already made its presence felt," Farage tweeted above a picture of his party's lawmakers with their backs turned. The lawmakers "have arrived in Strasbourg to be cheerfully defiant," he said in another tweet.

Farage also warned of a "turquoise takeover" in the U.K. if the ruling Conservatives failed to deliver a divorce. With 29 elected representatives, his Brexit Party, whose official color is turquoise, is the national party with the largest delegation, just ahead of the Northern League of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini with 28 seats.

Opposite Farage were the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, who also performed well in the EU elections. They arrived in Strasbourg with bright yellow t-shirts emblazoned with "Bollocks to Brexit" and "Stop Brexit." In theory, the new parliament should have only 705 seats if Brexit were taken into account. When Brexit occurs, 27 of the British seats are to be redistributed to other countries and another 46 will be set aside for future EU enlargements.

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