Brexit Party MEP Ann Widdecombe has been criticised after comparing the UK’s departure from the EU to slaves achieving freedom from their owners.
In her maiden speech to the European Parliament, the former Conservative MP and shadow home secretary told the Strasbourg legislature there is “a pattern consistent throughout history of oppressed people turning on the oppressors”.
She said: “Slaves against their owners. The peasantry against the feudal barons. Colonies… against their empires.
“And that is why Britain is leaving. It doesn’t matter which language you use, we are going and we are glad to be going.
Ms Widdecombe added: “Nous allons, wir gehen, we’re off.”
The 71-year-old joined Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ahead of May’s EU elections, in which she was subsequently elected an MEP for the South West.
Her comments in the European Parliament were criticised on Thursday.
Liberal Democrat MEP Martin Horwood, who also represents the South West, later told the chamber: “What you heard from that back corner does not represent the views of everyone in the UK.”
In remarks bringing applause from many other MEPs, he added: “Brexit is not inevitable. Opinion is shifting in Britain otherwise we would not be here.
“And those of us who support Europe also need Europe’s support. Thank you.”
Anne Widdecombe just compared Britain leaving the EU to “slaves” rising up “against their owners”.
It is impossible to explain how offensive and ahistorical it is for you to equate my ancestors tearing off their chains with your small-minded nationalist project. Shame on you. https://t.co/wZVCziXWVM
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) July 4, 2019
Labour MP David Lammy told Ms Widdcombe on Twitter: “Shame on you.”
He wrote: “It is impossible to explain how offensive and ahistorical it is for you to equate my ancestors tearing off their chains with your small-minded nationalist project.”
Fellow Labour MP Virendra Sharma, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum, said: “It’s disgraceful that Ann Widdecombe feels able to use the historical catastrophe of slavery to suit her own agenda.
“Widdecombe is no messiah: she’s another jumped-up populist who loves nothing other than the sounds of her own voice.
“The Brexit Party need to stop turning their backs on helping people. We need to stop Brexit to move past their attention-seeking theatrics.”
Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, claimed Mr Farage was now “facing some stiff competition as chief clown of the Brexit Party”.
He added on Twitter: “By the way, when Widdecombe talks about ‘colonies liberating themselves from their empires’, is she really referring to the American Revolution of 1776?”
Many of Ms Widdecombe’s Brexit Party colleagues praised her speech.
On Tuesday, the Brexit Party prompted controversy by turning their backs on the EU anthem as they took their seats in the European Parliament for the first time.
Last month, Ms Widdecombe was criticised for suggesting in a Sky News interview that science may “produce an answer” to homosexuality.