Brexit: Farage to Meet Barnier
The former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, is meeting next Monday with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and has requested Brexit voters to suggest on Twitter possible topics to discuss by using the hashtag #AskBarnier. The meeting was scheduled after Farage wrote an open letter to Barnier in October asking him to listen to the voices of those who voted Brexit. The meeting is part of a series of meetings Barnier is conducting with UK political figures over Brexit.
But, Farage presented this meeting as a generous opportunity to the British people to be heard once more on the issue of Brexit. As he said: “I thought, who is in there representing the views of the 17.4 million people? Nobody. I want to involve you. I want you to ask your questions directly to Michel Barnier. So, respond. Give me your name, give me your hometown, give me one question. I’ll pick the best three.”
Farage, who campaigned for Brexit and disappeared from politics as soon as his wish came true, has recently claimed he is broke, stressing how unprofitable the job of a politician is. Talking to the Daily Mail he said: “There’s no money in politics, particularly doing it the way I’ve done it – 20 years of spending more than you earn.” But, everybody knows that his claims are untrue: he owns a £4m townhouse in Chelsea, has been getting an extra salary as an MEP since 1919, not to mention his annual pension from the EU—which he hates so much—not the pension, but the institution. The pension amounts to £73,000 a year and the MEP pre-tax salary is around £7,500 a month. He might have sold the people the fiction that he is one of them, but numbers attest to another truth. His estimated net worth amounts to £2.5m and with more than £84,000 plus expenses salary, Farage is far from being “skint” or anti-establishment, despite how much he hates the so-called “career-professional class.” He might “care deeply about his country,” as he said in the Daily Mail article, but is hard to erase from one’s memory the photo of Farage and Trump laughing in front of Trump Tower’s iconic golden doorway. Ferrero Rocher, anyone?
His proposal to Twitter users to suggest questions for Barnier, has backfired. Yesterday, his intentions were overshadowed by a series of tweets that attacked him, and as the Guardian pointed out, “may be too uncomfortable for the meeting.”
Replying to Farage, author Tim Concannon tweeted: “Mr Barnier, Why would a group of rich tax dodgers, shady tech billionaires, nom dom press barons, intelligence chiefs in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, and Russian oligarchs want the UK to leave the EU, just as you close tax loop holes? I'm stumped.”
Comedy writer James Felton, wanting to ruin Farage’s hashtag, posted a series of replies to Farage: “#AskBarnier to patiently explain to you why it’s a bit Hitlery to speak at a far right rally in Germany,” and “#AskBarnier what it feels like to win a seat in a general election.” Others, brought up his meeting with Julian Assange, his economic situation—"#AskBarnier if you can claim your expenses back for attending the meeting, you being so broke and all that,” and his low attendance rate as an MEP in the the European Parliament. The funniest referred to his failure to be elected an MP, particularly, losing to a candidate dressed as a dolphin: “#Ask Barnier—Ask Nigel what it's like to lose to a dolphin at an election.”
Response to Farage’s meeting with Barnier
Neither Twitter users, nor the political commentariat were especially happy with Farage’s upcoming visit to Brussels. Open Britain’s executive director James McGrory criticised Farage’s poisonous presence in British politics and compared it to “sending an arsonist to put out a house fire.”
However, Farage has the freedom to be heard and oppose the government, even if this is a gesture without consequences. History taught us that he is at his best when he instigates, whereas practicalities such as taking responsibility or solving an issue are none of his concern. As the European Commission said: Barnier's "door is always open" but, "There are two negotiators - on the one side the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, and on the European side it's the chief negotiator of the EU, Michel Barnier. Nobody else."