The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament, headed by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, has been disbanded following the defection of a Latvian MEP.
The EFDD has existed for three months, including the August break.
If the EFDD can find a new MEP from a country not already in the group, it could re-form. The UK, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Lithuania and Sweden are already represented in the group.
If the group is unable to re-form it could create a vacuum for Le Pen to restart her efforts to create a group, which she had planned to name the the ‘European Alliance for Freedom’.
Other groups in the Parliament welcomed the development. Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP), called it “the first defeat for Eurosceptics”
A spokesperson for the EFDD group did not return calls for comment. All staff working for the EFDD group will lose their jobs unless the group can re-form.
Parliamentary groups must have at least 25 MEPs from seven different member states in order to be officially recognised by the Parliament. Iveta Grigule was the only Latvian MEP in the group, and her departure means that the EFDD does not have representation from enough member states. The group’s dissolution was officially announced today at a meeting of the conference of presidents (the group leaders).
The group was formed by UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Farage in 2009 under the name Europe of Freedom and Democracy. Most of its MEPs came from UKIP, with a handful from six other countries. It managed to stay intact for the full 2009-14 term.
Facing competition from Marine Le Pen’s efforts to create a new right-wing group in the Parliament, UKIP joined forces with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement in Italy and changed the group’s name, adding the word ‘direct’. In the new configuration, the 17 Italian MEPs shared the spotlight with UKIP’s 24 MEPs, and it is now co-led by Farage and Five Star MEP David Borrelli.
Grigule’s office said they were not yet aware of the reason for the defection. It may be related to the government-formation process in Latvia. Grigule is from the Union of Greens and Farmers party and there are ongoing talks about who is joining the government. The EFDD is seen as being pro-Putin and her membership in it may not have been palatable in a domestic context.
Learn more about the Five Star – UKIP alliance in this video interview with MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo.
“Radicals and populists are utterly divided,” he said on Twitter. “No constructive work for citizens. Good that EFDD is no longer playing an official role.”
Catherine Bearder, the one British Liberal Democrats MEP left in the European Parliament after the party lost 10 seats in this year’s election, said it was “not surprising that UKIP has lost friends and alienated people in the European Parliament.” She said the development will make Farage a backbench MEP in the European Parliament, much like Douglas Carswell, who for the first time won a seat for UKIP in the British Parliament last week.
“Just like his new MP, Nigel Farage will now have to shout from the back benches – that is if he actually bothers to turn up,” she said.
Source: European Voice