The European Parliament has re-opened in Strasbourg with an anti-EU protest by the UK’s Brexit Party and a demonstration by Catalan nationalists whose MEPs are barred.
MEPs from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party have kicked off their time in the European parliament by turning their backs on the EU’s national anthem during the legislature’s opening ceremony.
The Brexiteers carried out the protest as ‘Ode to Joy’ played on Tuesday morning to mark the opening of the new parliamentary session in Strasbourg.
They were far from the only delegation to pull a stunt, however. The newly enlarged Liberal Democrat contingent from the UK turned up to the first sitting of the parliament wearing identical ‘Stop Brexit’ T-shirts.
Richard Corbett, a long-serving Labour MEP, said the Brexiteers “think they’re being clever by standing with their backs to the chair at the opening session”, adding that the move “looks pathetic and has not impressed anyone”.
Speaking outside the parliament, Nigel Farage issued a warning to Boris Johnson and Jeremey Hunt about Brexit.
A plan emerged from the first session – after the Europe-wide elections in May – to nominate German Defence Minster Ursula Von Der Leyen as Commission president.
An earlier compromise deal collapsed.
Ms Von Der Leyen is being considered for the top job, while Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is being considered for the key role of president of the European Council, according to German website Die Welt and other reports.
Christine Lagarde is being cited as a possible new head of the European Central Bank. The French head of the International Monetary Fund served as economy minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.
Ex-Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and colleague Toni Comin were barred from taking their seats because they had fled to Brussels after a banged referendum on independence went ahead and had not attended a swearing-in ceremony in Madrid as required.
Hundreds of Catalan demonstrators protested for the three separatist figures who were unable to take their seats and inside the chamber fellow MEPs placed photos of the missing members on their desks.
Irish Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy warned that the parliament’s credibility would be undermined if it did not stand up for the voters of Catalonia.