Brexit Party's Anne Widdecombe condemned for 'disgraceful' remarks comparing the EU to slave owners
Reuters / Henry Nicholls
- New Brexit Party MEP Anne Widdecombe compares EU membership to slavery and claims British people are "oppressed."
- "There is a pattern consistent throughout history of oppressed people turning on the oppressors: slaves against their owners, the peasantry against their feudal barons," Widdecombe said on Thursday.
- The former Conservative minister made the comparison in her maiden speech in Strasbourg's European Parliament.
- MPs and MEPs strongly condemned Widdecombe. Labour MP Virendra Sharma said it was a "disgraceful" comparison while David Lammy said "shame on you."
- Brexit Party MEPs caused controversy in Strasbourg on Monday when they turned their backs while musicians played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the anthem for the European Parliament.
LONDON - The Brexit Party's Anne Widdecombe has attracted criticism and ridicule for claiming British people are "oppressed" and likening the United Kingdoms exit from the European Union to slaves rising up against their owners.
The former Conservative MP, who was elected as an Member of European Parliament for the Brexit Party when it claimed victory in May's European elections, used her maiden speech in Strasbourg to compare Brexit to a colonised country rising up against occupying forces.
Watch: Anne Widdecombe compares EU membership to slavery
"There is a pattern consistent throughout history of oppressed people turning on the oppressors: slaves against their owners, the peasantry against their feudal barons," she told MEPs including Guy Verhofstadt, who is a vocal critic of Brexit.
"Colonies, Mr Verhofstadt, against their empires. That is why Britain is leaving."
She added: "It doesn't matter which language you use. We are going, and we are glad to be going."
Guy Verhofstadt, the former prime minister of Belgium, said Widdecombe's comments meant outspoken party leader Nigel Farage was "facing some stiff competition as chief clown of the Brexit Party" in the European Parliament.
Other MEPs joined Verhofstadt in condemning Widdecombe for her language.
Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat MEP, told the Independent after the speech: "To imply that the United Kingdom is any way in a similar situation to the colonies of our former empire or a victim of slavery is deeply offensive.
"Widdecombe's comments trivialise the suffering of those who have experienced slavery and colonialism."
British Members of Parliament also criticised her comments.
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a supporter of the Best For Britain campaign against Brexit, said: "Anne Widdecombe is no messiah: she's another jumped-up populist who loves nothing other than the sounds of her own voice."
He added: "It's disgraceful that she feels able to use the historical catastrophe of slavery to suit her own agenda.
"The Brexit Party need to stop turning their backs on helping people.
"We need to stop Brexit to move past their attention-seeking theatrics."
Addressing Widdecombe, Labour MP David Lammy tweeted: "It is impossible to explain how offensive and ahistorical it is for you to equate my ancestors tearing off their chains with your small-minded nationalist project. Shame on you."
Brexit Party MEPs caused controversy in Strasbourg on Monday when they turned their backs while musicians played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the anthem for the European Parliament.
Ann Widdecombe MEP: Britain was right to vote to leave, we're off!- The Brexit Party (@brexitparty_uk) July 4, 2019
Widdecombe is on fire! pic.twitter.com/6bI01YHWAc