FORMER UKIP leader Nigel Farage was heckled in the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Wednesday after accusing MEPs of ‘behaving like the mafia’ over the conditions of Brexit.
Farage was told to retract his ‘unacceptable’ remark by the Parliament’s president, Italian Antonio Tajani and said that, in respect of national sensitivities, he would instead brand them ‘gangsters’.
‘You (the EU) have shown yourself with these demands to be vindictive, to be nasty. All I can say is thank goodness we’re leaving,’ he said.
The row came as the Parliament heard a string of senior MEPs insist that Britain cannot enjoy ‘the same or better conditions’ in its relations with the European Union as full member states after Brexit.
MEPs voted in favour of an eight-page resolution that lays out the Parliament’s red lines on the coming Brexit negotiations, over which the Parliament has a veto. The resolution says the UK must honour ‘all its legal, financial and budgetary obligations’ up to and after its withdrawal, and threatens to exclude the UK from EU discussions on trade and ‘other policy areas’ if it begins talks with non-EU countries before leaving the bloc.
The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, told MEPs that he expected the UK to return to the EU in the future, when a younger generation recognises withdrawal as ‘a loss of time, a waste of energy and a stupidity’.
Leaders of the main groupings in the European Parliament said they wanted ‘fair and constructive’ talks with Britain during the two-year withdrawal talks under Article 50, but insisted that divorce talks must come before negotiations over future trade relations and that the UK will not be allowed to ‘cherry-pick’ favoured elements of EU membership to keep.
The leader of the EPP group of centre-right MEPs, Germany’s Manfred Weber, told the Parliament that the UK could not simply pick and choose areas such as security, scientific collaboration and free trade where it wanted to co-operate with the remaining 27 member states.
‘I feel London thinks it will find the perfect deal and will take the positive points and leave the negative points,’ said Mr Weber. ‘This will not happen. Cherry-picking will not happen.
‘A state outside the EU cannot have the same or better conditions than a state inside the EU.’
Mr Weber said: ‘We are going to remain partners and friends but the UK has to accept the fact that there will be a tough negotiating position on the European side.’