30-year-old EU lawmaker Magid Magid wants to turn the tide on Brexit

04.09.2019

If British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has his way, Magid Magid will be out of a job come 31 October.  

But the 30-year-old European Parliament representative for the Green party isn't too worried. The former lord mayor of Sheffield is not convinced his country will leave the European Union by Halloween.

"You know, I just can't see it happening," he tells journalists in Brussels. "I just can't see how the parliamentary arithmetic will allow us to just walk out."

It's not a popular view among some of Britain's 73 parliamentarians, 29 of whom belong to the eurosceptic Brexit party.  

But Magid, who made international headlines for banning "racist" U.S. President Donald Trump from visiting the British city, is not one to shy away from confrontation or standing out. Since making the switch to Brussels after May's EU elections, he has vocally condemned populists such as Italy's anti-migrant League party head Matteo Salvini and problems he has encountered in EU institutions.

Magid, a black Muslim who came to Britain as a child as a refugee from Somalia, is frequently attired in a baseball cap and slogan T-shirt ("Immigrants make Britain great" or "Jesus was a refugee").

After making an impassioned speech in July branding Salvini a "coward" who "watches a child drowning... and turns his back" that was met with heckles and cheers, Magid was reprimanded for keeping his hat on by the parliamentary chair during the session. 

Unfazed, Magid responded that the chair ought to focus more on leading the session and less on what people are wearing.

"Some people here are intimidated or annoyed by my presence," he tells journalists. "Of course you're gonna get people that are constantly staring, thinking 'Who's that guy? Is he meant to be here?'"

Magid claims he was asked to leave on his first day in European Parliament by someone who assumed he was not a parliamentarian. A spokesman for the EU legislature in Brussels told journalists he was confident the person involved was not a parliamentary staff member.

Things are better now, Magid says: people come up to him to chat or ask for a picture with him. With his slickly curated social media presence, full of shots of him crouching in Doc Martens boots, he doesn't fulfil most people's expectations of what a parliamentarian looks like. 

But, as Magid points out, most EU citizens still don't even know who their parliamentarian is - he wants to see EU representatives raise their profiles.

In August, he embarked on a multi-day tour of his home region of Yorkshire and The Humber to get people "Ready for Remain", as the campaign was called.

Magid wants his country to stay in the 28-member bloc, despite the fact that 52 percent voted to leave in the 2016 referendum. He's convinced that "the best deal is the one we've got."  

Since then, Johnson, who claims he is pushing the EU to change the divorce bill drawn up under his predecessor, Theresa May, has announced a plan to suspend the main house of the British parliament from mid-September - a move Magid describes as "undeniably a dictatorial coup."

"I don't know why he thinks that now he's prime minister everybody will say 'Stop everything, we'll give you whatever you want,'" Magid tells journalists, saying he's doubtful that the premier will get the EU back to the negotiating table.

Magid also doesn't make much of Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission's president-elect, who did not campaign in the EU elections and was the surprise pick of European leaders - a move the Greens parliamentary group decried as a "backroom stitch-up."

"She's very much... a status quo politician," he says. He voted against her to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker.

Her goal of carbon neutrality in the EU by 2050 is not enough for him, Magid adds - he wants it by 2030, in line with his party's stated climate goals. 

The parliamentarian also wants safe passage for migrants trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

"I know that some groups in Europe are completely against that," Magid says. "But I can't accept ... the Mediterranean being some kind of cemetery."

Magid's critics say he's divisive and irreverent, that he alienates large groups of the population.

But the outspoken aquatic zoology graduate, who first got into politics as a student, says he's not shooting for mass appeal: 

"If you're trying to be everyone's cup of tea, you might as well be a mug," he tells journalists, using a British colloquialism for a stupid person.    (dpa)

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