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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Has Marine Le Pen put Farage's European Parliament group out of business (and out of pocket)?

UPDATE 16:10 - A spokesperson for Lithuania's Order and Justice told EUobserver that the party "hasn't had any discussions" with Marine Le Pen on a possible alliance. This confirms Le Pen remains at least one party short of forming a group in the European Parliament (see previous update). 

UPDATE 14:05 - We are still waiting for an official confirmation that Marine Le Pen has managed to put together her new group in the European Parliament.
In the meantime, though, it seems the two Lithuanian MEPs from Order and Justice have denied reports that they are going to join forces with Front National. This would leave Le Pen's group one party short of the required number. A Lega Nord spokesman quoted by Die Presse admits that "final discussions are still under way", but still expects Le Pen to officially announce the creation of the group later this afternoon.


It looks like there could be a winner in the contest between Nigel Farage's UKIP and Marine Le Pen's Front National to gather as much support among the fringe parties elected to the European Parliament in order to be able to form (or in UKIP's case maintain) a parliamentary group. Although there has not yet been any official confirmation, Giovanna Pancheri - the Europe correspondent of SkyTG24 - broke the news on twitter yesterday evening that the Polish KNP party (led by Janusz Korwin-Mikke) and the Lithuanian Order and Justice party had agreed to join Le Pen's new European Alliance for Freedom Group. 

Along with the FN, Geert Wilders' PVV, Belgium's Vlaams Belang, Austria's Freedom Party and Italy's Lega Nord, the EAF has enough member states to qualify for an official group. In total, the group will have 44 MEPs (24 of which are from the FN). Having a group means additional staff and funding, a high profile platform in the parliament, and possibly the right to some committee posts.

This means that, as Open Europe predicted a couple of weeks ago, UKIP's Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group looks in serious trouble having lost the Danish People's Party and the Finns party to the ECR and Lega Nord and now also Order and Justice to the EAF.

In theory, the EFD could yet survive if it holds onto its Dutch MEP, as well as getting Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement on board (which may prove difficult given its activists will have the final say), the Sweden Democrats, and a couple of other small parties and independents. If it manages to get MEPs from six different member states, it could also potentially secure a special dispensation under EP rules, but this would require the consent of the other group leaders (not sure we would fancy Farage's chances!). While being forced to sit without a group would hardly be disastrous for UKIP politically, given that it has its eyes set on Westminster, losing millions of euros, a bunch of staff that can be used for campaigning and a high profile platform from which to attack the EU would hurt. Ukip better get busy searching for more donors. 

However, despite Le Pen's apparent success in emerging as the figurehead of the main anti-EU group in the EP, there remain a number of questions over the EAF's durability. For a start, the PVV have made clear their unhappiness over Jean-Marie Le Pen's recent anti-Semitic outburst (which is splitting the FN), while the addition of the highly volatile Korwin-Mikke could alienate more 'moderate' MEPs within the group.


Rollo said...

Whatever the UKIP does, it must not associate itself with fascist and racist and sectarian parties. It should hardly be astounding that Farage will stick to his principles. He is not of the 'political elite'; that scum that has floated to the top in the EU and in Parliaments around the continent.

Philip S said...

It was to be expected that the Polishouder would veel themselves at home by FN. Both have a turbulent history of Holocaust denial, don't think that Farage (whatever my opinions about him) should affiliate with this lot.

Denis Cooper said...

"UKIP's Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group looks in serious trouble having lost the Danish People's Party and the Finns party to the ECR"

Just remind me, didn't the Tories previously say that these were parties with unacceptable views and they would not sit in the same group with them?

Oh, and the latest is that the Tories are nominating somebody who was previously a LibDem and who insults eurosceptics to become the President of the EU Parliament:


Rik said...

Parties like IP should position themselves obo national support not on EP stuff.
Their power even their European power comes from there.

IP has a profile that is different from that of a lot of European populist parties. And probably as important Farange seems to feel pretty unconvenient when people put him in say LePen's Sr-FN.
Simply shouldnot do that just to get access to some funding.
Doesnot fit in his image. The only funny thing they cn put on him is that he is against mass immigration. Which is only 'racism'in the eyes of the larger guardianistas who will never vote IP anaway. And are effectively already a minority on top of that.

LePen's group should probably start with agreeing to disagree. No strong fractiondiscipline. Hard to see it could work otherwise.
A lot of angry people who need room and not discipline.

Wilders might join the EP fraction. Would be bad news for the EU. He might be vulgar and rude but he is at least one divisionhigher than guys like Schultz and Juncker.
Possibly need a new challenge himself as well (his Dutch campaigning was simply pretty sloppy the last couple of years).
Probably will combat with Farage who of the MEPs get the most media coverage. Probably Wilders I would say his oneliners are more controversial and therefor more mediagenic.