Chief Eurocrat Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his last State of the Union speech in Strasbourg on Wednesday before stepping down at the end of his mandate in 2019.
Mr Juncker urged member states to reject the temptation of nationalism to embrace a more European form of patriotism, a demand that appeared to unite MEPs from all across the European Union.
Brexiteer Dan Hannan accused the Commissioner of “prescribing more of the medicine that sickened the patient,” attacking his plans to speed up integration among the remaining members.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk in the aftermath of the State of the Union speech, Mr Hannan said: “Juncker’s answer to everything is more Europe. Immigration crisis? Get rid of the borders – more Europe!
“Populist parties rising on the continent? More integration, more Europe! Brexit? Speed up our plans for a military and physical integration, more Europe! When’s he going to realise that’s prescribing more of the medicine that sickened the patient in the first place?”
Fellow Conservative MEP Ashley Fox appeared to be of a similar mind, advising Mr Juncker to accept that the heavy presence of European influence on national matters is fuelling the unhappiness of EU citizens.
Mr Fox described Mr Juncker as a “tired man” whose only proposal includes dialling up the role of the EU in the continent: “I think it was a very tired speech from a very tired man, and his answer to every question is more Europe. It doesn’t matter what the question is, his answer is always more Europe. He doesn’t get it
“I think the lesson that the European Union has to learn is that the problem is not that there isn’t enough Europe, the problem is that there is already too much Europe. That is what causes European citizens to be discontented.”
EU News: European MEPs tore apart Juncker’s last speech as head of the Commission
The Tory politician added: “The people in Britain voted to leave the EU because the EU intrudes too much into the nooks and crannies of national life, and if the EU follows Mr Juncker’s prescription, if there is more Europe, a European defence identity, more qualifying majority votes on foreign policy, we will see more people getting upset at the EU, and that is not the way I want to see it.”
Nigel Farage, a vocal opponent of Mr Juncker’s plans for more integration and a key architect of the Brexit referendum, branded as “bizarre” the Eurocrat’s calls for more “patriotism” as he warned that further consolidation within Europe could threaten the sovereignty of member states.
Mr Farage told Express.co.uk: “If you’re patriotic to your nation-state that’s bad, that’s nationalism, that’s evil, that’s xenophobic, but if you’re patriotic towards the European flag, that’s good and that’s virtuous. I mean it’s absolutely bizarre.
“What they want is they want all of us in Europe to sign up to a new form of identity. They want us to say we’re European first, and we’re German second or French second. All the evidence is that this is not what people want.”
EU News: Hannan said Juncker’s solution is
He added: “They actually want to live in nation states, they will make decisions at nation-state level and whilst they want to co-operate with their European neighbours, they don’t want flags, anthems and presidents Junkers, and really, in a sense, it gets right to the middle of what this whole European debate is about.”
The seasoned Brexiteer added: “From the British perspective is quite positive. From the EU perspective, well they’re away with the fairies.
“They want to build their euro state regardless of whether people want that or not.”
Scottish MEP David Coburn also weighted in negatively on the message of the speech, hailing the Luxembourgish politician and his Commission for facilitating the “breakup” of the bloc through Brexit.
Mr Coburn, the leader of the Ukip Scotland, suggested that the growing anti-European sentiments festering in Brussels would ultimately make “life easier” for Britain upon leaving the bloc.
He said: “It’s a terrible state, that’s probably the best way of putting it.
“Jean-Claude Juncker has managed to oversee the break-up of the European Union – Britain leaving, Italy on the brink, having elected a populist Government, Sweden electing a populist Government.
“All the countries of Europe becoming anti-European which is a good thing. One of the best things for us is that the more populists get in here the bigger the problem they are going to have running the European Union the next time around which makes life easier for the Brits.”
But disappointment appeared to transcend borders, with Italian MEP Fabio Castaldo also coming out strong against the speech for failing to address key issues such as migration despite growing dissent with the bloc’s management of the situation.
Mr Castaldo said he expected a “much braver” approach from Mr Juncker: “Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed by Mr Juncker’s speech. It was his last speech of the state of the Union and we were waiting for a much stronger and much braver approach to tackle the issue of migration.
EU News: Mr Henkel blasted Juncker for providing Michel Barnier with a “blank cheque” on Brexit
EU News: Fox claimed Juncker appeared “tired” as he delivered his last speech
“We observed a very very wrong approach. He talked about strengthening the European border and coast guards and to increase the number to 10,000 but without reforming the Dublin system.”
Italy has been calling on Brussels to broker the reform of the Dublin III Treaty currently forcing Italy and other border countries to take on the burden of managing asylum requests from all migrants reaching their shores.
Mr Castaldo said: “Without reforming the Dublin regulation, it means that the EU will not be able to totally change that system that is totally unfair, unbalance and has put too much weight and responsibility on the shoulders of the countries at the border of the EU, like Italy.
German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel also voiced his criticism of the speech, lamenting Mr Juncker had given EU Chief Brexit negotiator a “blank cheque” to negotiate Brexit without taking under consideration the economic risks to the continent.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Henkel said: “I was very disappointed by President Juncker giving a blank cheque to Mr Barnier. And I’ve met Mr Barnier only yesterday again and I think he thinks he’s some sort of an Ayatollah. He totally ignores the economic impact of Brexit on Europe.
“He seems very eloquent on all the other impacts of Brexit on Britain but he’s totally deaf to the bad impact on Europe. If he was more amenable to the realities of the economic impact on Europe, he would give Britain a better deal than today.
“I appeal to him to be more generous to the British. And of course, the best thing would be to give the British what they always wanted, without Brexit. More autonomy on immigration.”
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