Brexit Party MEPs turned their back on the EU anthem while the Lib Dems wore ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts in the European Parliament.
It was a dramatic first day of the European Parliament as the newly-elected UK MEPs took the chance to publicly show their support or opposition to Brexit.
The UK took to the polls in late May to select their MEP representatives in the European Parliament. This vote was seen as a proxy second referendum; the results helped to gauge the current public opinion on Brexit.
And the election showed that the country was still as divided as ever on this topic. The Brexit Party – which was newly formed by Nigel Farage – was the biggest winner with 29 MEPs.
But pro-Remain parties such as the Liberal Democrats (16 seats) and the Green Party (seven seats) enjoyed major gains. The UK’s two main parties – Labour and Conservative – suffered significant losses to illustrate how the nation has lost faith with the government and the opposition over Brexit.
The first day of the new European Parliament promised to be political. And it did not disappoint with two key publicity stunts. We take a look at them below…
Brexit Party snubs EU anthem
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Brexit Party MEPs turn their backs in European Anthem at opening session of European Parliament pic.twitter.com/M1J5rdzb8e
— James Mates (@jamesmatesitv) July 2, 2019
During the EU’s ‘Ode to Joy‘ anthem in Strasbourg, MEPs from the Brexit Party made their political point by standing up and turning their backs in protest.
This was met with approval by party leader Nigel Farage. The ex-UKIP MEP tweeted: “The Brexit Party has already made its presence felt.”
High-profile MEP Ann Widdecombe told BBC News: “What we did was symbolic. We didn’t make a noise, we didn’t disrupt anything… we just turned around to say ‘we reject this.'”
This publicity stunt was met with backlash on social media. The hashtag #NotInMyName – set up to show disapproval for the anthem snub – has been trending on Twitter. Thousands used social media to criticise the Brexit Party for this, including politicians and other prominent celebrities.
David Lammy – Labour MP for Tottenham – said: “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.“
Susie Dent, of Channel 4’s countdown, tweeted: “It seems like another epithet is needed for today. Sorry if you’ve heard it from me before, but sometimes it’s worth repeating. Snollygoster (1800s): an unprincipled, shameless representative, governed entirely by self-interest.“
MEPs wear ‘Stop Brexit’ t-shirts
While the Brexit Party grabbed some media attention during the anthem, pro-European MEPs also had their say. A host of Lib Dem MEPs arrived with bright yellow t-shirts with ‘STOP BREXIT’ emblazoned across the front in block capitals.
While the tops were eye-catching in colour, they also carried a tongue-in-cheek message on the back. ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ – the unofficial slogan of the Lib Dems’ 2019 European Election campaign – was printed on the back of the t-shirts.
This was criticised by prominent journalist and presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer. She tweeted: “Personally I don’t think it’s big or clever for Brexit Party MEPs to turn their backs during the EU anthem. But the EU isn’t a nation so it only offends Juncker, Tusk etc. Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Bollocks To Brexit”, as LibDems did, is an offence to democracy & the 52%.“