EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lost his temper with MEPs due to low attendance at a debate in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on 4 July. The former prime minister of Luxembourg, who has headed up the EU's civil service since 2014, branded the institution as "ridiculous".

"The fact that about 30 MEPs are seated in this debate is enough to show that the Parliament is not serious," Juncker said. Antonio Tajani, the newly elected Italian president of the EU parliament, accused Juncker of a lack of respect.

"You can criticise the parliament, but it's not the commission's job to control the parliament – it's the parliament that has to control the commission."

Juncker, who vowed to never "attend a meeting of this kind again", claimed that the chamber would be "full" if German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the MEPs.

"I wanted to pay tribute to the Maltese government and to the prime minister of Malta [Joseph Muscat] for what [overseeing Malta's six-month-long presidency of the EU]," Juncker added.

The 751 MEPs receive a basic salary of €8,020.53 ($10377.96) per month. The pay is initially taxed by the EU, reducing it to €6250.37, and the MEP's home nation – the UK's HMRC, for instance – also taxes the money.

The representatives from the 28 EU nations also take part in plenary sessions in Brussels, Belgium, and the parliament decamps to Strasbourg once a month. The 248-mile move south costs EU taxpayers at least £150m a year, according to the Single Seat campaign.

Gregory Claeys and Dick Schoenmaker, research fellows at the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels, have called for the Strasbourg seat to be turned into a university.

"The money saved by the centralisation of the European Parliament operations in Brussels would be sufficient to cover almost entirely the annual budget of a university such as Paris Sorbonne, which has more than 20,000 students and 1,300 professors and researchers," the pair wrote in the wake of the Brexit vote in August 2016.