Nigel Farage leads UKIP protest at EU Parliament

The UKIP MEPs staged a silent, symbolic protest

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Nigel Farage has led his fellow UKIP MEPs in a protest against the European Parliament at the opening of its new session in Strasbourg.

The UKIP MEPs turned their backs as an orchestra played Beethoven's Ode to Joy, the EU's unofficial anthem.

Most of the party's 24 MEPs - the biggest delegation to the Parliament from the UK - are believed to have taken part in the protest.

"Don't recognise flag nor anthem," tweeted one newly-elected UKIP member.

Janice Atkinson, who represents South East England, also tweeted a picture of a spoiled ballot paper for the election of the Parliament's next president, on which she had written "none of the above".

Janice Atkinson's spoiled paper

UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall MEP said: "We don't recognise or respect the EU flag or anthem. They are both symbols of our servitude inside a political union which the British people reject.

"We will do everything we can in European Parliament to oppose the federalist system which ignores our national democracy and pushes millions of people across Europe into poverty and unemployment. We stand up for our people, not the EU flag and anthem."

But the Liberal Democrats' sole MEP, Catherine Bearder, expressed her dismay at the behaviour of the UKIP group, saying in a twitter message: "Shocking disrespect from UKIP and others to turn back on orchestra at opening ceremony."

Nigel Faraage in European Parliament
UKIP MEPs stage a protest in Parliament

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said members of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which includes David Cameron's party, "sat quietly" during the anthem, while most MEPs stood.

"When the UK leaves the EU, I'll happily stand for Ode to Joy as a mark of respect to the anthem of a friendly neighbouring state," he tweeted.

There was a surge in support for anti-EU parties in many European countries in May's elections, but the three big centrist groupings, who back political union, are still in the majority.

UKIP leader Mr Farage, a veteran of the Brussels and Strasbourg Parliament who was first elected in 1999, said: "It's a different Parliament, it will be a more exciting Parliament, but let's not delude ourselves, the pro-EU side still has the majority."

Martin Schulz, file pic Martin Schulz says he wants Britain to remain in the EU

German Socialist Martin Schulz was elected to a new term as parliament president, with 409 votes in the 751-seat chamber.

Mr Schulz was the centre-left Socialists' rival to Jean-Claude Juncker for the European Commission presidency.

But after the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, won more seats than any other group in the European elections the Socialists backed Mr Juncker for the job.

Mr Schulz sought to build bridges with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who opposed Mr Juncker's candidacy, in his opening remarks as the Parliament's president, asking: "What can I do for the Brits to encourage them to be a fully-fledged member of the European Union? The European Union with the United Kingdom is stronger."

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