Brian Cooke writes:

Visit to Brussels

Please find below a summary of our visit to Brussels & the EU Parliament, forgive me I need to go and wash my mouth out.

As you can see we I took a box of 50 Brexit Bags donated by UKIP Gloucestershire and handed them out on the coach in time for arrival at the EU Parliament. Roger Gough kindly handed out VOTE LEAVE & OUT NOW badges which we very proudly exhibited within the EU building as shown in the photos. My two badges caused the scanner to squeak, when I pointed to the badges and asked should I take them off to go back through the scanner the officer in charge was not amused at me pointing to them. He grunted and waived me on with badges still pinned to my left breast on shirt! When we got outside we had the photo call under the flags where again we displayed in defiance our bags, badges and UKIP FLAG!!!!!!

Chris Harlow very kindly has written the summary below:

“Into the Lair of the Beast”

Last week an intrepid group of Kippers from the South West assembled for a trip to The Dark Side – or as it’s otherwise known, the European Parliament. Forty one brave souls left friends and family behind and girded their loins to face their Nemesis.

An early start from Plymouth meant that the group was able to catch a ferry from Dover and reach Calais as night fell. As our coach plunged further into the continental darkness and the road signs changed from French to Flemish, our spirits were buoyed by our own bonhomie. After a couple of hours, we pulled into an Ibis hotel on the outskirts of Brussels. I can report that alcohol was consumed, with a much-needed and surprisingly good evening meal. The next morning, after a good Ibis breakfast, we boarded the coach for the thirty-minute journey to the Parliament. We trundled through the unremarkable suburbs of the unremarkable capital of an unremarkable country.

After passing the Berlaymont (the Commission’s offices) we arrived at the EP, in the hope of visiting the “Parliamentarium” – a Visitor Centre designed to emphasise the importance of the unimportant. Unfortunately, our visit would have taken longer than the time we had available, so we moved next door to the Parliament itself, along with our Brexit bags. Airport-style security meant that our entry took some time, but we were eventually taken to view the Atrium, where contemporary sculptures and artwork are displayed.

Then we went into the Hemicycle – the hemi-circular Talking Shop designed to give the Parliament its veneer of democracy. Elected on a 42% turnout in 2014, the 751 members are limited in how long
they can speak for, rely on being in a pan-European “grouping” for decent recognition, and cost EU taxpayers £1,636,000,000 in 2016. As last week was a “committee week” the Hemicycle was empty, apart from visitors and officials.

Our guide was a personable young man called Henri, who answered our questions with knowledge and good humour. He took us into a side room to give us a slide presentation about the Parliament and its works. We got as far as slide 1 before the questioning began in earnest. Henri dealt with our sceptical lines of enquiry with enthusiasm, but on the whole failed to convince us of the qualities of his organisation. After 40 minutes we were still on slide 1… Henri had the grace (and honesty) to tell us that he preferred the challenging enquiry of our group to the nodding acquiescence of Lib Dem groups he had hosted. We had a brief welcome from Dr Julia Reid, our SouthWest MEP before being ushered back out to a Brussels winter day.

“Afternoon at leisure” meant for some a return to the hotel, and to others the opportunity to visit central Brussels, the Grand Place, the Manneken Pis, Christmas markets, chocolatiers and purveyors of Belgian beer. One group met a supportive restaurateur who described the EU as “mafia”, whilst another was invited to leave the country by an angry young Europhile. In the evening we all met together in a very cosy restaurant in the Grand Place for a celebration dinner with Julia and her staff. 

Our final day dawned rather damp as we left Brussels heading for the French border. Today would be a little different. Our first stop was at Tyne Cot cemetery where serried ranks of white stone marked the resting place of thousands upon thousands of British and Commonwealth young men who had given their lives during the First World War. It was a time for sober reflection, and our group listened to our knowledgeable driver/guide who explained the bloody progress of the conflict over four long years. It seems astonishing that so much of the fighting took place in such a small area, with the front line moving back and forward almost within sight as advance followed retreat followed advance.

A couple of miles further took us to Ypres, “Wipers” to the British Tommies, where we saw the impressive Menin Gate at the entrance to the town. It commemorates 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives within five miles of the little town of Ypres, including at the notorious Battle of Passchendaele.  

After a visit to a local WW1 museum, it was time to get back on the road and head for Dunkirk. The comforting sight of Dover’s White Cliffs welcomed our intrepid venturers home, more knowledgeable about the EU, but sobered by our last day’s visits.

As the coach trundled towards home, all those who made the trip agreed that Tony McIntyre and John Baddeley had done a great job in organising the trip, and we thank them and Dr Julia Reid for giving us a memorable few days.

We hope that, in just over 100 days’ time, our sovereign parliament will be somewhat closer to home.
Chris Harlow
Chairman, UKIP Cotswolds

Photos and video produced and published with kind permission of Brian Cooke.

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