Farage and others have found the European Parliament to be an easy target for mockery. Steeped in bureaucracy and tasked with ironing out the legislative nitty-gritties of the world's biggest transnational governing body, the members are often seen as wonky elites who, despite being directly elected, are out of touch with constituents. The Brexit vote was at least partially propelled by resentment toward them. In his speech, Farage accused them of wrecking Europe's economy and being in denial, as well as deceiving and lying to the British people.
In a speech filled with barbs, one in particular seemed unfair. "I know that virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives or worked in business or worked in trade or ever created a job," he told the European lawmakers, who are known as MEPs.
The gibe was received by a loud chorus of boos. In a video of the speech, an MEP sitting behind Farage can be seen cradling his head in his hands. It turns out that he is a perfect example of how wrong Farage was.
Vytenis Andriukaitis is a Lithuanian surgeon and politician who was born in a Soviet gulag and now serves as Europe's health commissioner — no easy task — after having served as his home country's health minister. Capitalizing on the celebrity he gained from his appearance in the video of Farage's speech, Andriukaitis wrote a blog post titled "Thoughts from #WeAreSeat123." The Guardian newspaper reprinted it as "Nigel Farage made me facepalm. I couldn’t hide my despair."
Meanwhile, Farage spent most of his professional career as a commodities trader and started his own firm. That firm is now going through "liquidation," according to the Guardian. The Daily Mail reported in 2013 that Britain's revenue service was about to file a petition to close the firm when Farage resigned as its secretary. "The company has liabilities of £135,677 and the taxman is the biggest creditor. It has also failed to file its annual return and accounts on time, which will lead to automatic financial penalties of thousands of pounds," the article said.
Of course, the definition of a "proper job" is in the eye of the beholder. But we must assume that Farage believes business to be proper, given his own résumé. In that case, many in the European Parliament have had proper jobs. But if Farage simply meant that MEPs were by and large career politicians, he was even more wrong.
Many MEPs have had distinguished careers in medicine, law, education and academia, technology, law enforcement, and even dairy farming. Here's a smattering of particularly "proper" examples:
Richard Ashworth, who formerly led Britain's Conservative Party, spent three decades as a dairy farmer in East Sussex before becoming an executive in the dairy business.
Julia Reid, from Farage's own party, has a PhD in pharmacology and worked as a researcher in a diabetes laboratory.
Geoffrey Van Orden served in Britain's military for more than 20 years before instructing the German military and working in NATO's joint intelligence committee.
Outside of Britain, there are those like Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, who owned and operated a book shop for 12 years before becoming the youngest mayor in his home state in Germany.
Or even Marine Le Pen, France's firebrand far-right leader, who worked as a lawyer for six years before entering politics.
It is possible that Farage wasn't aware of his colleagues' impressive credentials because he did such a poor job of carrying out his responsibilities at the European Parliament. Out of 751 MEPs, he is fourth from last in terms of attendance.