Brexit Party MEPs turn backs during European anthem

Posted at 8:11 AM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 10:11:04-04

Brexit Party MEPs caused outrage at the opening session of the European Parliament by turning their backs as the European Union anthem was played.

Video footage shows the party’s 29 MEPs turning around in a coordinated maneuver as musicians play the “Anthem of Europe,” which is based on Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, rebuked the MEPs after the incident in Strasbourg, France.

A spokesman for Tajani told CNN that even if people disagree with the European Union, turning away for the anthem shows a “lack of respect.”

Other political figures also weighed in on the controversy.

“Nigel #Farage and his band of #Brexit company MEPs think they’re being clever by standing with their backs to the chair at the opening session of the #EuropeanParliament,” tweeted Richard Corbett, leader of the Labour party MEPs. “Looks pathetic and not impressed anyone!”

Labour MP Luciana Berger said the stunt was “beyond pathetic,” and colleague Lilian Greenwood called it “childish, disrespectful and damaging to our country’s interests.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had earlier said his MEPs were going to be “cheerfully defiant.”

Across the Brexit divide, the pro-EU Liberal Democrat MEPs turned up wearing bright yellow t-shirts which read “Stop Brexit” and “Bollocks to Brexit.”

The ceremony marked the beginning of a new five-year session of the European Parliament, which British MEPs hadn’t expected to be involved in.

However continued wrangling over the UK’s exit from the EU means that they took their seats Tuesday.

MEPs are preparing to elect a new president of the European Commission to replace incumbent Jean-Claude Juncker, who will leave the role at the end of October.