TakingStock – Country divisions are drawn by ‘Bruges group’ debate.

Banter at the dinner table after the president’s turn, might more appropriately have focused on the Stockholm conference or accession, but it veered sharply to matters more contentious – the allegations of xenophobia that surrounded William Hague’s recent ‘we will give you back your country’ speech.

Given Roger Helmer, the Conservative MEP for East Midlands was sat at the table, TS opted to keep shtoom, sit back and see how it panned out, especially since the make-up of the group seemed to guarantee a, shall we say, colourful debate.

Apart from your scribe and the Tory MEP, the rest of the table of varying nationalities held significant posts in either the European parliament or the commission. Helmer defended his party leader against accusations of xenophobia but ended up regarded by his European cousins as equally xenophobic.

The more accusations flew, the more personal the debate got. On reaching its peak, Michael Chamier, director of finance at the European Parliament, decided enough was enough.

Chamier rounded on Helmer and point blankly refused to converse any longer with the man the rest of the table clearly regarded as a xenophobe.

Oh for the polite banter of a more traditional institute meal.

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