UKIP leader loses appeal against £2,400 fine for saying EU chief had "charisma of a damp rag and appearance of a bank clerk"
18th September, 2012
The European Parliament has upheld a £2,400 fine against UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
The MEP was docked the money in 2010 for tearing into Herman Van Rompuy, who had just been appointed EU president.
Addressing the former Belgian premier in parliament, Mr Farage said he had ‘the charisma of a damp rag' and the ‘appearance of a low-grade bank clerk'.
Fined: Nigel Farage was forced to give up $4,000- the equivalent of 10 days' pay- for insulting an EU politician during a floor speech
As Mr Van Rompuy listened, Mr Farage added that the Belgian came from 'pretty much a non-country.'
Jerzy Buzek, the then parliamentary chief, ordered Mr Farage to apologise. He refused and the authorities cut €3,000 from his pay.
He appealed to the European Court of Justice but it ruled that he filed his appeal too late and would also have to pay parliament's legal expenses.
Mr Farage was unrepentant last night, saying: ‘They have made themselves a laughing stock over this. It is a simple question of free speech.'
Although MEPs have protection from prosecution when discussing political issues or constituency matters this legal privilege does not extend to personal comments.
The penalty comes two years after the wrongdoing, when Mr Farage gave a theatrical speech in the European parliament in February 2010.
The sparring: The insult took place during a session of the European Parliament when Mr Farage (left) questioned Mr von Rompuy's (right) appointment
He went from discussing the appointment of Mr Van Rompuy and dissecting his qualifications starting with his credentials and critiquing his appearance.
‘I'm sorry but... and I don't want to be rude, but you know really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk,' he said.
‘I sense though that you're competent and capable and dangerous, and I have no doubt that it's your intention to be the quiet assassin of European democracy and the European nation state.
'I'm sorry but... and I don't want to be rude, but you know really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk'
Nigel Farage, UKIP leader
‘You appear to have a loathing for the very concept of the existence of nation states - perhaps that's because you come from Belgium which of course is pretty much a non-country.'
Shortly after the incident, Mr Buzek met with Mr Farage and made a statement explaining that the matter was not one of free speech but simply common courtesy.
'I defend absolutely Mr Farage's right to disagree about the policy or institutions of the Union, but not to personally insult our guests in the European Parliament or the country from which they may come,' he said in a statement at the time.
'I am disappointed by Mr Farage's behaviour, which sits ill with the great parliamentary tradition of his own country. I cannot accept this sort of behaviour in the European Parliament.
‘I invited him to apologise, but he declined to do so. I have therefore - as an expression of the seriousness of the matter - rescinded his right to 10 days' daily allowance as a Member.'