VIDEO | Daily Express • Britain should consider quitting the EU, scornful Euro MPs said yesterday after the Daily Express exposed Brussels’ latest power grab.
During heated exchanges, British MEPs were heckled at an EU meeting as they referred to our front page report that Brussels could force sports stars to wear the EU flag on their kit.
The German committee chairwoman, Doris Pack, accused UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall of grandstanding when he flourished a copy of yesterday’s Daily Express and described the EU proposal as “baloney”.
She said, to applause from some MEPs, that it was just “better not” to speak about the British press.
She later added: “In the Lisbon Treaty there is a possibility to leave the EU ... I only wanted to say it.”
MEPs at the meeting said they understood her comments to mean Britain had the mechanism to leave the EU if it wanted. Mr Nuttall said: “The chairwoman got quite irate and said the good thing about the Lisbon Treaty is that it includes a clause that would let us leave, that would allow we British to leave.”
Yesterday we revealed how the European Parliament is considering, as part of wide ranging report on sport, plans to force European teams to wear the EU flag on their kit in addition to their national flag.
The idea that sports stars, including our football, rugby, cricket and Olympic teams, might have to display the blue and yellow symbol prompted outrage in Britain.
Tory MP Tracey Crouch, who is a qualified FA coach, said: “It’s outrageous. It’s an affront to our national teams.”
Former England football manager Graham Taylor said: “When competing European nations play against each other it seems pointless to have the European flag on both teams’ shirts. It seems a bit daft.”
The proposal featured in a draft motion debated yesterday at the EU Parliament’s culture and education committee suggesting ways to develop a “European dimension” in sport.
It said that “the European flag should be flown at major sports events held on EU territory and suggests that it should be displayed on the clothing of athletes from member states”.
Mr Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, told the meeting there was “a fair bit of sense” in the overall document. But on the EU flag proposal he said he “didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read it”.
Holding up a copy of yesterday’s Daily Express, he declared: “You’ve only got to look at what the English press is writing to see this idea is utter baloney, it’s mad.” Amid jeering from other MEPs, the chairwoman called for order before Mr Nuttall insisted that any flag ruling would be “repugnant to many people in the UK”.
Curtly slapping him down, Ms Pack said: “Thank you very much, you had your broadcasting, your TV, you had everything you wanted – but you’re not right.” She urged Mr Nuttall to read the draft motion to see that the “tiny” flag issue was “a proposal, not an obligation”.
British Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin was also later rebuked by Ms Pack after she said the flag idea was “absolutely outrageous”. Miss McClarkin said Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish teams did not display the British flag let alone the EU flag. She added: “It’s a very sensitive issue. If you go for vanity projects like this, you’re going to turn people off from the EU.”
Ms Pack retorted that the “wonderful” report was “not about the European flag” and that MEPs should not keep going on about it.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Nuttall said he believed some of the MEPs were “very keen” on the flag idea. He added: “I believe they will push this forward because if the EU becomes more and more unpopular across the Continent, they will try to use sport as a tool of propaganda.”
He has tabled an amendment to delete the relevant clause from the draft motion, which had been proposed by a Spanish MEP.
The committee is due to vote on the package in October. If passed, it will go to the European Parliament, and then potentially be presented to the European Commission as a proposal for legislation. EU member governments would also have to approve.
An EU Commission spokeswoman said it was “not against” the flag proposal but conceded that it was “controversial”.