Nigel Farage, who chairs the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) Group in the European Parliament criticised Italy’s Five Star Movement after its MEPs voted to leave EFDD and join the pro-EU Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).
As reported by the Independent, Farage accused the leader of the Five Stars, Beppe Grillo, of joining the establishment. He said: “Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment of ALDE which supports TTIP, mass immigration and an EU Army, but oppose direct democracy.”
Explaining the move in a blog post, Grillo said: “Recent events in Europe, such as Brexit, have led us to reconsider the nature of the EFDD group. With the extraordinary success of the leave campaign, Ukip achieved its political objective: to leave the European Union. Let’s discuss the concrete facts: Farage has already abandoned the leadership of his party and British MEPs will leave the European parliament in the next legislature. Until then, our British colleagues will be focused on developing the choices that will determine the UK’s political future.”
But ALDE rejected the Five Star MEPs, leaving their future uncertain. Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the liberal group which supports closer European ties, said: “I have come to the conclusion that there are not enough guarantees to push forward a common agenda to reform Europe. There is insufficient common ground to proceed with the request of the Five Star Movement to join the ALDE Group. There remain fundamental differences on key European issues.”
After being rejected by the liberals, the Five Star Movement on January 10 returned to their alliance with Ukip. According to the Reuters news agency, its return meant giving up a leading role in the grouping.
Farage said in a statement he welcomed back the 5-Star’s 17 European lawmakers, but noted that some “administrative changes” would be needed before continuing to work together in the EFDD.
Grillo wrote on his blog that 5-Star’s co-president of the EFDD, David Borrelli, had given up his position.
According to Reuters, Borrelli was one of the main negotiators of the failed deal with the ALDE and his departure strengthens UKIP within the group.
According to the Independent, the departure of 17 Five Star MEPs from the EFDD would have left the group with just seven members from six countries outside of Britain. And 20 of the EFDD’s current 27 members are from Ukip. One more departure and the group would have collapsed.
And at stake would be losing EU financing to the tune of €80,000 per MEP, amounting to €1.62m a year to Ukip.