Nigel Farage calling the European Union “mafia”, during his speech in the European Parliament (EP), was something that Jean Claude Juncker didn’t expect to listen to. The parliament, according to the European Union rules, must debate the guidelines for negotiating Brexit, which were presented by the president of the European Council (EC), Donald Tusk, in Malta, a few days ago. The British politician’s speech spiced things up.
Farage had been the leader of the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), for several years until 2016, and a member of the EP since 1999. Today, the EP is debating the Brexit negotiation guidelines because the parliament should approve the final deal. Farage said to his fellow MEPs that “I’m sorry because the response to the triggering of the article 50 has been all too predictable. You have made a series of demands that are not just unreasonable but, in some cases, nearly impossible for Britain to comply with. You began by telling us that we must pay a bill, a cool £52bn, a figure that has been plucked out of the air, effectively a form of ransom demand. You are behaving like the mafia. You think we are a hostage. We are not. We are free to go.”
The chairman of the parliamentary debate ruled out Farage’s reference to the mafia, but the former leader of UKIP went a step further his provocations when he rephrased saying that “I do understand national sensitivities. I’ll change it to gangsters.” The president of the European Commission (EC), Jean-Claude Juncker didn’t follow Farage in his barrage of provocations. He addressed the British politician saying that “it’s not the EU leaving the UK. It is the UK that leaves the EU. The UK’s decision marches against the march of history. A disorderly separation would be the worst possible outcome. If there is no deal, everyone will lose.” Juncker said that, without the questions of the past resolved, he won’t be able to talk about the future. The Luxemburgish politician praised the thousands of demonstrators that marched in London and other British cities, in favour of Europe saying that they remind him the founding fathers of the union.
Michel Barnier, the chief EU Brexit negotiator, said that the EP’s resolution will be the first official response to Theresa May’s letter for triggering article 50. Barnier talked about the importance of a transparent negotiating procedure that will have a “pedagogical dimension”, allowing the EU to rediscover what it has achieved. Responding to Nigel Farage’s accusations, Barnier said that the EU isn’t trying to punish the UK. “The EU wants to settle the accounts, no more, no less. A single financial agreement is a clear requirement. Theresa May wants a rapid agreement, but the devil is in the details,” said Barnier. The French politician repeated the will of the EU to firstly achieve an agreement on the terms of Brexit, and then move to negotiating future trade deals.
Guy Verhofstadt, who is the head of negotiations on behalf of the EP, spoke on the debate and commented that “Brexit is a catfight in the Conservative party that got out of hand, a loss of time, a waste of energy, stupidity.” Verhofstadt thanked the UK for the immense contributions that it made to the union and expressed the belief that “one day there will be a young man or woman that will bring Britain back to the European family.”
Farage, speaking to journalists after Barnier’s speech, said that he is not optimistic about the Brexit talks. “We have to pay the ransom first, and then discuss about a trade deal. They are going to keep us effectively within the framework of the single market.”