For most of Nigel Farage’s new army of Brexiteers, it was their first foray into frontline politics after spending years on the fringes of various campaigns to take Britain out of the European Union. As the joint-largest group of MEPs, alongside Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the Brexiteers were bound to make a big splash as they dived headfirst into the Parliament’s Hemicycle chamber. From turning their backs during the EU’s anthem to Westminster veteran and Tory defector Ann Widdecombe’s rip-roaring maiden speech, the Brexit Party found themselves almost instantly making international news.
But is the temptation of lavish gifts, gross salaries and the notoriety of upsetting their European colleagues not enough to make the Brexit Party MEPs stick around a little longer?
Claire Fox, a former Revolutionist Communist Party member, and Annunziata Rees-Mogg, who quit the Conservative Party to fight for Brexit, made themselves clear on where they really want to be.
Speaking to Express.co.uk from inside the twisting labyrinth that is the Strasbourg-based European Parliament, Ms Rees-Mogg sighs: “I wish I weren’t here. We voted to leave, we were promised we would leave.”
Ms Fox shares a similar mood. When asked whether the new MEP is enjoying her first day at work, she replied: “No, not really!”
Rupert Lowe joked: “It’s one of few jobs in my life where we’re trying to be sacked as quickly as possible.”
Mr Lowe, 61, comes to Strasbourg as an MEP for the West Midlands, a region that voted emphatically to leave the EU back in 2016, and believes that attitude can be contagious across the Continent.
The former chairman of Southampton Football Club said: “We’re not going to be disrespectful, we’ve come with the right attitude and I think, and there are many other people who are watching very closely.
“I think it’s quite possible the British people will actually save Europe form its self yet again.”
Despite the Brexit Party’s views being a genuine minority in Europe, they saw their concerns about an undemocratic group of institutions shared by a burgeoning number of MEPs after the backroom stitch-up to replace Jean-Claude Juncker was finalised.
Mr Lowe said: “I think there are a lot of people here that don’t necessarily think the European Union is a particularly democratic institution when the elected body doesn’t have the power – that power is vested in the unelected Commission, and that can’t be right.”
For once, the pro-Brussels bloc of Green MEPs, liberals and Social Democrats agreed after witnessing EU leader handpick Ursula von der Leyen, a relatively unknown German defence minister, to head the Commission for the next five years.
While MEPs will have an opportunity to rubber-stamp the decision in a vote on July 16, they saw their own nominations, Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans and Christian Democrat Manfred Weber thrown on the scrap heap.
Mr Lowe added: “We are here to try and bring to people’s attention that this is an undemocratic organisation and it needs to probably change to survive.”
Richard Tice, the Brexit Party’s chairman and MEP for the East of England, said: “A failed defence minister has been booted upstairs to the EU by Germany, desperate to get rid of her incompetence and her cost.”
It was the abhorrent lack of power in the hands of MEPs that left Mr Lowe most concerned. He said: “The more I learn about it the less power we have in the actually elected body.
“They’ve thrown a lot of titbits to make you feel good and important, meanwhile the actual power lies with the European Commission.”
Ms Fox said: “You’ve got more than the trappings of power here, they absolutely make you feel you are the most important politician that there has never been, therefore you must have some power.
“We haven’t got any power. The big, shocking story of this morning [Tuesday] was we were dismissed in less than half an hour because the decisions were being made by the big boys elsewhere… We’re all wandering round going, ‘is that it?'”
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