Nigel Farage Just Had An Extraordinary Clash With MEPs Over Brexit
"That's the last time you are applauding here. ... Why are you here?" asked European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker as he confronted UKIP's leader, who responded with a vitriolic speech attacking the EU.
The European parliament is not known for high political drama. But on Tuesday morning, in the middle of an address to MEPs, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, turned round to confront Nigel Farage.
The UKIP leader had interrupted Juncker's speech by applauding the president's call to "respect British democracy and the way it has voiced its view".
In an extraordinary confrontation, Juncker stopped, rotated to face the anti-EU politician, pointed, and told him: "That's the last time you are applauding here." Delegates from across the EU laughed. Applause rippled through the plenary chamber.
With the European flag behind him, and with, seemingly, the support of 27 other member states, Juncker added: "To some extent I'm really surprised you are here."
At this, Farage, who had led the charge for Britain to leave the EU, could be heard chirping "pleasure". Juncker ignored him and continued: "You are fighting for the exit. The British people voted in favour of the exit. Why are you here?" The assembled members laughed again and applauded.
Watch the exchange here:
It was just the start of remarkable session in the chamber. Farage then gave an address to the parliament, his first since Britain voted to leave the EU.
He told the delegates that when he first gave a speech there promising that Britain would leave the EU, they all laughed at him. "Well...you're not laughing now are you?"
Farage then launched an acerbic assault on the EU: "You as a political project are in denial. You're in denial that your currency is failing..."
As members began to jeer, Farage replied: "Well, look at the Mediterranean! As a policy to impose poverty on Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean you've done very well. And you're in denial over Mrs [Angela] Merkel's call last year for as many people as possible to cross the Mediterranean into the European Union. [It] has led to a massive division between countries and within countries."
But Farage was only just getting warmed up.
He continued: "The biggest problem you've got and the main reason the United Kingdom voted in the way that it did is that you have, by stealth, by deception, without ever telling the truth to the British or the rest of the peoples of Europe, you have imposed upon them a political union."
As the MEPs' boos died down, Farage went on to describe last week's referendum as a "seismic result" because "what little people did ... was rejected big politics and they said, 'Actually, we want out country back.'"
He also made a prediction that "the United Kingdom will not be the last member state to leave the European Union" and opined that the British government "shouldn't spend too long" before invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would trigger the dissolution of Britain's membership with the EU.
Farage then turned on the people in front of him.
After calling for a "grownup and sensible" negotiation of a "different relationship" with the EU, Farage said: "Now I know virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives..." – more laughed, jeering and booing from MEPs – "...or worked in business or worked in trade or indeed ever created a job, but listen, just listen..."
More boos echoed round the chamber, prompting Martin Shulz, the parliament's president, to interrupt the speech, telling members not to act like UKIP and telling Farage he cannot insult them in this way.
Farage responded by setting out his vision of the way forward in trade negotiations, and called on the EU not to "cut off your noses to spite your face". He added: "The consequences would be far worse for you than for us." Again he was booed and again he continued, threatening: "If we were to move to a position where tariffs were reintroduced on products like motor cars, then hundreds of thousands of Germans workers would risk losing their jobs."
Finally, Farage said: "Why don't we be pragmatic, sensible, grownup, and ... recognise that the UK will be your friend, we will trade with you, we will cooperate with you, we will be your best friends in the world, but do it sensibly and allow us to go off and purse our global ambitions and future."
As boos reverberated again at the end of his speech, Farage sat down, perhaps for the last time in the European parliament, and smirked.
Speaking later, Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt told Farage: "We are getting rid of the biggest waste of EU budget – your salary."