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Friday, June 13, 2014

Grillo joins Farage, but UKIP's group in the European Parliament is not a done deal yet

Now it's official: Italy's anti-establishment Five-Star Movement will try to form an alliance with UKIP in the new European Parliament. Beppe Grillo launched an online survey of Five-Star members and activists on his blog yesterday, and 78% of votes went for Nigel Farage's EFD group.

The survey has drawn criticism from the Italian press, but also from some Five-Star MPs, for a number of reasons:
  • Only 29,584 votes were cast, a microscopic amount when compared to the almost 5.8 million votes the Five-Star Movement won in the European Parliament elections;
  • The survey only offered three options: EFD (UKIP's group), ECR (the UK Conservatives' group) or non-attached. Other groups that could have been more natural allies of the Five-Star Movement, notably the Greens and the European Left of SYRIZA and Podemos, were not included;
  • The three options were presented on Grillo's blog in a way that appeared to privilege Farage's group. The description of the ECR was shorter and less enthusiastic in tone. As regards the non-attached group, the blog warned that being part of it would mean "limited or no influence on the legislative activities of the European Parliament", and would therefore prevent the Five-Star Movement from pushing its political agenda in Europe. A fair point, although it can also be quite difficult to impose your views if you are sitting in a group where no-one agrees with you on certain issues.
Still, the verdict of la rete (the internet) is sacred for Grillo and the alliance with UKIP will go ahead. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Although they both emphasise the importance of referenda and direct democracy, the Five-Star Movement and UKIP are not exactly soulmates. Energy policy, EU farm subsidies, financial regulation, the financial transaction tax, GMOs and the EU-US free-trade deal (TTIP) are all issues on which the two parties do not see eye to eye.   

Indeed, the deal between Grillo and Farage is that their parties will sit in the same group, but will vote independently. This could help make the alliance sustainable in the longer term.

So where does this leave Farage with the formation of his group in the European Parliament? The bad news for UKIP is that they still need two national factions to wrap up the group. At the moment, parties from five EU countries are on board: UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.

On the other hand, though, Farage is now ahead of Marine Le Pen when it comes to the number of MEPs in the respective groups. Farage has 45 MEPs on his side, Le Pen only 38 (42 if you count the Polish KNP party, whose participation has not yet been confirmed).

Will Le Pen and Farage both succeed in putting together a group? And whose will be the largest one? We will likely get the answer over the next couple of weeks.  


Anonymous said...

If these guys and UKIP can be in the same group and vote independently then all other parties could join into one, unprincipled group.

I don't like the Nazis either but anyway the whole thing seems to be a bastardized version of minimum % of votes, designed to make it harder for the small parties to make a difference. And put some euros in their pocket.

I say all the other parties should join together.

Anonymous said...

Of course UKIP and M5S get together, they are both led by comedians: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/m5s-ukip/