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I Was the Fly in the Ointment of Brussels' Excess

04/06/2016 22:10 | Updated 04 June 2016

I was in Brussels for a number of interviews on Brexit and meetings when my assistant suggested we attend the 'European Business Summit, Under the High Patronage of His Majesty the King of the Belgians', in one of his magnificent palaces. Not wanting to be rude, off we went.

The only debate in town worth attending was 'Brexit - to leave or not to leave?'

It was a very one-sided affair, ie no one from the Leave side, until I landed, the fly in the ointment of cosy contentment. One panelist gulped when I introduced myself. Yep, I'm here to challenge the Remain camp's business assumptions and propaganda. Up until that point they were in a 'safe space'.

The Remainer argued that we should just dismiss the trade deficit, it simply is not an argument. Why said I, there are free trade deals to be had around the world, TTIP is deeply flawed and will not be voted through, why do you think that one trade commissioner can negotiate a good deal for all 28 states? A one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Why would the EU stop trading with us and why would it be in their interest to impose trade tariffs?

He then tried the argument that the NHS would collapse if we left. Why would it, said I? The nurses and doctors from the EU working in our NHS would remain, otherwise it would collapse. What we also need to do is to restore the cuts in nurse training funding and places in the UK.

The Remain side were losing the argument he said, complaining that Leave had the upper hand on social media, in the town hall meetings, on the streets and are more motivated. We really have to do something he cried, with lots of exclamation marks. We need telephone voting, what about those going to Glastonbury, they need to vote!!!! Mmm, said I, is he not worried about voter fraud, we can't get to grips with postal voting fraud, let alone glitches in telephony IT systems. Why can't the Glasto crowd get a postal vote if they're that keen to take part, we cannot keep spoon feeding the middle classes.

The highlight of the event was the dinner, featuring Martin Sorrell of WPP and the most excellent after dinner speaker, former president of the European Commission, Herman Van Rompuy.

Sorrell, who has made billions out of communications, admitted the Leave side were communicating far better than Remain and without the funds. I wondered what sort of message that sent to the business leaders attending the summit, given the fees they must be paying him and companies like his.

And then Mr. Van Rompuy. When seeing him in the flesh I thought about Nigel Farage's disparaging remarks about - 'a damp rag', Ukip even had tea towels made with his image, 'a low grade bank clerk' - he certainly looked like one.

He lived up to the insults. Falling asleep into my lobster ravioli, my head hit a pen, not any old ordinary pen, but a silver Balmain, top of the corporate rated gifts item, a present from the sponsors. I quickly sorted that into my handbag.

This excess, including the sumptious dinner, the excellent wines, the magnificent venue of the palace, the big glossy book accompanying the summit, the hot air, the feeling that outsiders need not attend, just a cosy little soiree for those sucking at the teets of the European taxpayers, is paid for partly by us. I didn't see one other MEP, apart from a few that had retired or been kicked out by the voters who now had cushy lobbying jobs.

I met Mr Van Rompuy outside. I introduced myself and said I agreed with every word he said. He seemed surprised. I agreed that for the euro to work and ever closer union, then sovereignty would have to be relinquished. If you're in a club you should respect the rules. We British cannot so we will Brexit. For all his faults, he is a charming man.

The media told me that they had been bored until I came. One said the most exciting thing about the event was your interventions and your lovely shoes. I do like to feel I'm making a difference, I'm at my best invading safe spaces.

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