It may be the middle of the Strasbourg plenary session, and the EU may be facing an unprecedented crisis - the very real possibility that the UK might decide to leave come June - but that doesn’t mean that MEPs can’t still have some fun. An exchange of emails between European deputies, seen by PMHQ, reveal that they have, in fact, been hedging bets on the outcome of this summer’s Brexit referendum.
It began when British EFDD group member Gerard Batten wrote to ECR group leader Syed Kamall asking him how he was planning to vote in the referendum. Batten explained that he had, “a €50 bet with [EFDD MEP and Ukip deputy leader] Paul Nuttall that you will campaign to Remain, he is betting you will campaign to Leave. Can you please confirm one way or the other so that one of us can collect?”
As it turns out, betting is a popular activity among MEPs, with other deputies joining in on the action. Beatrix von Storch - who, along with her AfD colleague Marcus Pretzell, was asked to leave the ECR group earlier this week - responded to Batten and told him she had, “a £50 bet with Marcus Pretzell that Syed will actually manage to decide before 23 June. Marcus is betting that Syed will not have decided by then and will completely miss the referendum.”
Von Storch added, “I personally think Syed would like to campaign to Leave - in line with his convictions. However, I also think that, talented politician that he is, might in the end be campaigning to Remain, for whatever reason.”
When it comes to betting, there are no party lines. GUE/NGL group MEP Fabio de Masi offered up some sobering advice to his colleagues, saying, “If you need a clearing house for hedging Syed Kamall, I strongly recommend seeking advice in the City of London, which has ample experience with gambling.”
“In the meantime, most citizens, and I am quite sure, even British citizens, care about decent wages and an end to austerity and insufficient investment in housing, health etc. It doesn’t look like the EU-UK deal and Prime Minister David Cameron’s demands really care about these legitimate concerns with the development of the EU. I would bet my grandmother on that.”
Unfortunately, not everyone was amused by the betting. Catherine Bearder, a UK MEP for the ALDE group, said; “For Ukip, this is one big game. They are happy to gamble on Britain's future prosperity by dragging us out of Europe. The only safe bet for UK jobs and the economy is to remain inside the EU.”