Inquiry announced into Ukip MEPs’ altercation

European Parliament president Martin Schulz says reports of row ‘extremely serious’

 

A European Parliament inquiry is to take place into an altercation between two Ukip MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday which left one of them, Steven Woolfe, hospitalised.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said the incident would be referred to the parliament’s advisory committee, which is chaired by British Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim.

“The reported facts are extremely serious,” Mr Schulz said on Friday. “It goes without saying that disrespectful and violent behaviour does not have a place in the European Parliament.” It was possible that those involved were in breach of the parliament’s rules of procedures and code of conduct for MEPs, he said.

The announcement of the inquiry came as Mike Hookem, the Ukip MEP who was alleged to have hit Steven Woolfe, denied punching his colleague.

“Any injuries Steven Woolfe had, which caused whatever medical problems he’s got, did not come from me, from my hand,” Mr Hookem told BBC Radio Humberside on Friday. “I did not injure him. I did not throw a punch at him. I did not cause those injuries.”

Mr Hooken, Ukip’s defence spokesman, said an argument had developed during a meeting of the party in Strasbourg on Thursday morning after Mr Woolfe’s admission that he had considered joining the Conservative Party was raised.

According to Mr Hookem, Mr Woolfe asked his colleague “to take it outside of the room” and the two men entered an antechamber beside the meeting room.

“When I walked in, he approached me to attack me. He came at me, I defended myself. There was no punches thrown, there was no face slapping, there was nothing. It was, as people in Hull would term it, handbags at dawn, a bit of a scuffle.”

Mr Woolfe, who remained in hospital in Strasbourg on Friday, told the Daily Mail that Mr Hookem “came at me and landed a blow”. He said he had since emailed Mr Hookem and “reached out the hand of friendship”.

The referral of the incident to the European Parliament’s advisory committee could lead to a cut in the daily expenses allowance of both MEPs for up to ten days, or a suspension. Both men will be interviewed as part of the committee’s work. Mr Schulz said the referral of the incident to the committee would take place “regardless of the possible judicial consequences that this incident may also have”.

It is understood no reports have been filed with police over the incident.

Mr Woolfe (49) was treated by European Parliament medical staff and rushed to hospital in Strasbourg on Thursday after he collapsed two hours after the incident involving Mr Hookem.

Mr Woolfe is seen as a strong contender for the Ukip leadership. Nigel Farage was reappointed as interim leader of the party following the resignation of Diane James as leader after just 18 days in the role.

Mr Woolfe was famously prohibited from entering the Ukip leadership race following Mr Farage’s decision to step down as leader in the wake of the Brexit referendum in June, after he missed the application deadline by 17 minutes.

Ukip MEP Jonathan Arnott said on Friday he did not believe Mr Woolfe should run in the leadership contest. “It must surely be obvious to anybody, having seen this, that Steven Woolfe – and of course Mike Hookem, although I don’t think Mike will put his hat into the ring – surely they can’t now consider that either of them could stand in a leadership contest,” he told the BBC.

Mr Farage also announced that an internal party inquiry into the incident would be established.