This very revealing story comes to this blog via Public Service Europe, who have posted the following on their site:
UKIP is full of “hooligans” and “bar fighters”, alleged a vice president of one of the European Parliament’s political groups on Tuesday. Some of UKIP’s Eurosceptic MEPs “are against everything in the European Union apart from the money and the allowances they get themselves,” according to Derk-Jan Eppink MEP, vice-president of the European Conservatives and Reformists – the group founded when David Cameron’s Conservative Party MEPs leave the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP).
Talking at a conference organised by the Association of European Journalists, Eppink, a former journalist and one-time European Commission cabinet member, gave UKIP’s Brussels contingent both barrels. It was important for people to know “what they are like”, he claimed. “If they get drunk they get very dangerous,” was one of the allegations he put to a gathering at the Brussels Press Club. “They present themselves as white knights but they are not.” If UKIP MEPs did any work, it was usually “appalling”, he alleged.
British Eurosceptics often did not bother to turn up at committees or parliament plenary sessions. Centre-right parties have on occasion been “one or two votes short of stopping the left” in key votes that were lost because UKIP MEPs were “not there”, it was said. And UKIP was a party of “vox-pop politicians” with “no grassroots support”, Eppink claimed when continuing his diatribe. Eurosceptics took European funding and “funnelled it into their party”, he added, and UKIP’s parliamentary members often flitted between parties or found themselves “investigated”, he suggested.
Debating Europe with UKIP supporters often turned into an “aggressive” exchange involving “abusive language”, said Eppink. “They are sort of hooligans,” he told the gathering “apart from Nigel Farage” – the UKIP leader. And UKIP supporters and British Eurosceptics in general were “hard to convince with facts and figures”, said Eppink, a Dutchman who has crossed over into Belgian politics. “A positive agenda is very hard to sell,” he said – a problem he predicted would face British Prime Minister David Cameron if and when he campaigns for the UK to remain in the EU ahead of a referendum.
Eppink’s venting of the spleen seemed to have been fuelled in part by what he described as “a very unpleasant dinner” in the UK that descended into a shouting match with a British academic. “I discovered afterwards that he was linked to UKIP,” Eppink said. He often travelled to Britain at the invitation of British Tory MEPs in the ECR group, he said, visiting towns such as Nottingham “where I would never go as a tourist”.
The Tories in the ECR group were almost all in favour of remaining in the 27-member bloc, he claimed; citing both personal contacts and Twitter feeds as evidence. Only Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was likely to vote for the UK to withdraw, he predicted. Cameron’s Europe speech earlier this month was, in Eppink’s opinion, an attempt to regain ground lost to UKIP.