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Larking around in the EU with a forgotten Brexit hero Mike Nattrass
Posted on the 16th Jul 2016 in the category sport



There is no doubt Brexit is one of the momentous post-war historical events for the  UK.

And there is no denying UKIP's role in forcing the referendum so I've dug out a feature about a forgotten historical hero for the Brexiters - Mike Nattrass. He was one of the first UKIP MEPs elected on the Robert Kilroy-Silk (remember that Lozells old boy) inspired election in 2005. But more importantly for UKIP he bankrolled the party for years.

This piece is fascinating and includes me having coffee with Nigel Farage who I compare to Howard's Way villain Charlie Frere. Also featured is baboon fondling MEP Tom Wise who ended up being done for expenses fraud. It was a dog of a journey, especially when I realised there were more epensive direct flights from Birmingham to Strasbourg. 

If you went on a tour of the EU Parliament with an MEP you'd get £100 in Euros put in your hand at the end of the tour, so needless to say I visited both Strasbourg and Brussells parliaments several times with Mike. I even got him to invite my very photogenic black friends after pointing out there were no pictures of people of colour in UKIP literature. I spent a bit of time with Mike over the years, an interesting bloke who loved Europe but not the EU. Because he stood once for a little known British patriotic party I suppose I thought I might expose him as a racist but I spent enough unguarded moments with him to know he was not. Farage ended up kicking him out of the party he had ensured finacially survived.

On a trip to Brussells I met Farage again, he wasn't that fond of journalists at that point as a few days before the Daily Mail had exposed his affair with his immigrant nanny, in a speech he cracked jokes about it as his wife stood beside him cringing.

This feature was published in The Great Barr and Sutton Coldfield Observers on July 2015, 2005.

 

It has been a year since local businessman Mike Nattrass was elected to the European Parliament for the UK Independence Party, so to mark the occasion last week the Observer’s Adam Smith shadowed the MEP and discovered all is not what it seems in the EU.

 

It is 4am on a Monday morning and as a cold wind blows through Perry Barr itseems a million miles away from that far off place Yerp – or should I say Europe.

I am waiting for the West Midlands UK Independence Party MEP to pick me up on the way to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

Mike Nattrass is hard to miss even in the blue light of dawn, his BMW is adorned with UKIP slogans like ‘EU are better out of the EU’ and ‘Save the Pound’.

Mike is on his own, his wife can’t make it because thecat has takena turn for the worst. But a groggy moggy will not keep Mike from his crusade.

After a drive to Luton, a few hours in crowded departure lounge,a delayed flight and listening to two screaming kids bellow for what seems eternity we touchdown in Switzerland – one of the few European countries not in the EU.

Luckily, because the big cheeses at Strasbourg Council want the parliament in their back yard MEPs get free taxis from Basle Airport. Eight hours after we left Birmingham we finally arrive at the European Par-liament.

For me, it seems a lot of time and energy for UKIP to get somewhere where they do not want to be – surely it would be easier to stay in Birmingham.

But that is the unique position Mike Nattrass and his nine fellow UKIP MEPs are in.

Unlike Sinn Fein,who refuse to attend Westminster and take the Royal oath, UKIP turn upto the institution they despise every session. MEPs have to sign in every day to get their wages and expenses.

Not that Mike Nattrass sees any of his wages,he donate sit to his party’s coffers, one of the ways he pours cash into UKIP.

After continually coming up against European regulations inbusiness Mike decided todedicatehis life togetting the UK out of the European Union.

“If the EU is the answer then it must have been a pretty stupid question,” jokes Mike.

And within hours of being with Mike it is obvious he carries out his political crusade with a smile. He can’t help but laugh at the absurdities of life in the European Parliament because the daftness demonstrates the problems that make the EU an easy target for ridicule.

“The parliament in Strasbourg sits forjust four days amonth,and forthe rest of the timeit is inmothballs,it costs 200 million Euros a year to transport the paper work between Brussels and France, it is barmy, look what good you could do with that money,” Mike vehemently explains.

“The building is fantastic, the French people are very friendly and Strasbourg is wonderful but itisa total waste of time and money to be here. The MEPs voted to just use Brussels but the French used their veto to ensure we still come here.”

The first friendly face we see is Eastern region MEP Tom Wise.

He has to pop intothe Parliament. With bright lights and blue decor it looks like a set from an alien council in Star Trek.

It is empty as we creep in, Tom has a toy baboon under his armand mischievous grin.

Silly question,but why the baboon? “My local car dealership gives a baboon away when you buy acar and the ba-boonis supposed to go wherever the car goes,” he calmly explains.

So my first taste of the European Parliament is monkeying about taking a picture of a toy baboon in the president of the EU Commission’s seat.

Then a group of Italians spot us,the look on their faces says it all, ‘mad baboons and Englishmen go out in the midday sun’.

“We are definitely anti-establishment,” Mike explains. I agree, I cannot see Tony Blair playing with cuddly primates on the dispatch box.

UKIPmadeits politicalbreakthrough last year, capturing a major slice of the vote in the European elections– a flirtation with Robert Kilroy-Silk ensured the party captured the headlines.

The British electorate certainly appreciates irony because they send UKIP to the place where they donot want to be but not to Westminster where the decision could be made to withdraw from the EU.

Mikeis the deputy leader of the party and introduces me to the leader Roger Knapman, parliament leader NigelFar-age and fellow MEP Graham Booth.

As we sipped beer in the subsidised canteen it dawned on me between the four of them they represented half of Britain,over 20 million people and had polled over two million votes.

Mike hasa mandate of 236,000,more than ten times that of PerryBarr MP Khalid Mahmood. So after a year in the EU what has UKIP achieved?

“The French no and the Dutch no happened because of UKIP being in the parliament,” Nigel Farage proudly brags.

“We gave people the inspiration in their own countries to say this EU dream is fast becoming a nightmare because of incompetence.”

Within a year UKIP have made a lot of European friends,they have set up the Independence and Democracy group, the fourth biggest in the Parliament attracting Dutch,French, Polish and Czech MEPs.

Under the leadership of Nigel Farage, smooth, suave and slightly reminiscent of Charlie Frere from the drama Howard’s Way ,UKIP is according to Mike ‘scaring the EU to death’.

From uncovering special gifts to the European President to showing how African fisherman are being put out of business because of European sub-sidies, UKIP are now part of the

European Union, albeit through militarism – the voting is regimental.

“Yes, No,Undecided,”shouts the compere, err I mean speaker because the votes come and go sofast it was like watching bingo.

A woman with a shock of blonde hair makes anoise, storms across the parliament and unfurls anItalianflag then throws it overan MEP. Madam Mussolini is annoyed again. ‘This is EU politics at its best’a researcher tells me with a smile.

Mike is lobbied by different groups, on Wednesday it was the turn of the biometric glasses brigade who complain that 8,000 motorists will be outlawed.

Mike is on the Transport Committee so he promises to insert an amendment to help motorists who use the special glasses.

Though he scoffs atthe parliament Mike does have power. An amendment here and challenge there can help vulnerable groups across the continent.

In 24 hours two very different moments showed the riotous yet bonding nature of the EU.

When the result of the Olympics vote was announced therewas jeering,boo-ing and goading from French and British MEPs, reminiscent of Westminster ya boo politics. It was certainly a good day to be in France on Wednesday but less than 24 hours later the close ties of a Europe without war were demonstrated when the minute’s silence was perfectly observed for the bombings in London.

MEPs embraced Englishmen in a show of solidarity between political foes and friends.

But on Friday morning, the parliament is a very different place – deserted except for a trickle of MEPs signing in then out.

UKIP are enjoying their European adventure, they are not trying to wreck it as the now departed Kilroy-Silkprom-ised, they just want the UK out.

It isa wonderfully British party, full of well meaning eccentrics. They will always facean uphill battle against Labour, Conservatives and the Liberals but UKIP can only be good for European democracy if they keep asking hard questions.

After another nasty journey wear-rived back at Luton airport in the early hours of Saturday morning,and walked through a gate marked UK and EU.

“That’s the bloody trouble withthe EU you have got no choice whether you’re in it or not,” joked Mike, knock-ing the European nail perfectly on the head.



 

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