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28 Jan, 2020 15:27

Farewell Friday: EU won't miss the British MEPs who shamed their nation with their greed, corruption and brawling

Farewell Friday: EU won't miss the British MEPs who shamed their nation with their greed, corruption and brawling

As the British MEPs head back to London from Brussels for the final time on Friday, they leave behind not just a fractured European Union still tortured over Brexit, but a legacy of bad behaviour, corruption and boorish antics.

The standout character for poor behaviour was greedy Ashley Mote, who was sentenced to five years in 2015 on a string of fraud-related charges after ripping off the parliament for nearly £500,000 (US$650,600).

In another incident, his colleague, MEP Tom Wise, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2009 when he was found guilty of fraud after funnelling money into a secret account that was used to buy shipments of fine wine and other personal items at the taxpayers' expense.

Meanwhile, transgender lesbian MEP Nikki Sinclaire, a striking figure in Brussels standing well over two metres tall, beat money laundering charges and allegations of misconduct in public office after a police investigation that spanned nearly four years up to 2016.

But financial misconduct is not the only thing UK MEPs will be remembered for.

Having worked in Brussels and Strasbourg for 12 years, I have witnessed plenty of misbehaviour that has either been brushed under the carpet or settled quietly without bringing it to public attention.

An Irish pub on the steps of the parliament became a no-go zone for politicians from other nations once the British delegation commandeered it, with their arguing and shouting putting off clientele simply looking for a quiet place to drink. The pub eventually shut and is now a health-food deli.

Elsewhere, one MEP took her staff out for dinner at a restaurant only to kick off when one of her troupe was mistakenly given a chicken dish when he had asked for the vegetarian option.
Punches were thrown and several police vehicles arrived to quell the melee. The politician then played her trump, an immunity card given to all MEPs should they find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Brussels.

No further action was taken, but the shaken vegetarian left his job shortly afterwards, telling me he could no longer handle the madness.

Other staff members have not been so discerning in their behavior, with allegations rife of sexual harassment, drug abuse, and even attempted suicide, all during work hours. Again, these matters were dealt with quietly and quickly to ensure there was no media coverage. No fuss, no story, insiders like to say.

While the procession of politicians through the halls of the European institution reads like a Who's Who of British politics, from former Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg, to ex-Labour chief Neil Kinnock, along with his wife Gladys and even their son, Stephen, it was the previously unknown Steven Woolfe, now plying his trade as a painter and decorator, who provides us with the most memorable image of 45 years of EU membership.

It is Woolfe splayed unconscious on a crosswalk inside the Parliament, in a classic dead man's pose while still holding the handle of his briefcase, following an alleged altercation with fellow MEP Mike Hookem during a meeting of one UK delegation.

The facts were disputed as to what actually happened, and an internal investigation failed to unravel the mess. Neither man faced re-election for a second term.

There is no doubt the poor discipline, massive egos and boorish antics certainly brought attention to the European Parliament. Maybe not the attention it sought, but it will certainly be a far duller place now the Brits are now longer there or in residence at the Beer Factory, a cheap and cheerful bar that acts as a de facto HQ for many MEPs and their staff.

Their former colleagues in the parliament will not be too upset to see them go, as the atmosphere towards the Brits, particularly the Eurosceptic politicians and staff, has been distinctly frosty since the 2016 referendum and positively icy as the departure date looms ever closer.

So Friday at 9am, the largest group of UK MEPs will walk out the main doors of the Parliament waving a large Union Jack. A short speech will be made on the institution's steps, then it's on a bus to the Eurostar terminal for the short trip to London.
They will never return to the corridors of the European Parliament and you can hear the sighs of relief there already.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.