UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s group in the European Parliament, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), was dissolved on Thursday (16 October) after Latvian MEP Iveta Gricule decided to leave the group.
The EFDD, a resolutely Eurosceptic political group, has gained influence in Parliament after the May European elections, reflecting the strong performance of Eurosceptic parties.
Since June, the group included 48 members, an increase of 17 on the previous Parliament. Political groups need to have at least 25 MEPs according to Parliament rules, but the EFDD collapsed because it had only six member states represented, when at least seven are needed.
The Parliament’s spokesman and director for media, Jaume Duch, confirmed the news on Twitter.
— Jaume Duch (@jduch) October 16, 2014
An EFDD statement said Mr Grigule signed her letter of resignation in the office of the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, this morning and told the Conference of Presidents that she had resigned, thus folding the group.
The EFDD was made up by members from the UK (the UK Independence party), Czech Republic (Party of Free Citizens), France (Joëlle Bergeron, independent MEP), Lithuania (Latvian Farmers Union), Italy (Five Star Movement), Lithuania (Order and Justice), Sweden (the Sweden Democrats) and until today, Grigule, from the Latvian Farmers Union.
The EFDD suggested that Parliament President Martin Schulz, a known Europhile, helped mastermind Grigule’s departure.
— Bruno Waterfield (@BrunoBrussels) October 16, 2014
On Wednesday (15 October), the EFDD suffered a heavy defeat when it was pushed out of the running for top positions in the parliamentary delegations.
The delegations have no legislative role, but they support the Parliament’s interaction with third countries.
Despite the size of the EFDD, Farage’s group was also blocked in July by pro-European groups from gaining a presidency in any of the parliamentary committees. The Greens, who often clash with Farage in Parliament over policy substance, backed the EFDD in the dispute, saying they were denied a chairmanship they deserved.
In a statement, the EFDD accused pro-European federalist parties of “political blackmail”.
UKIP leader Farage said, “It is clear that the European Parliament does not follow its long-term practice of sharing delegation and chairmanship positions in a fair manner according to the D’Hondt system.
“If we are correct in our understanding about the events, President Schulz would be more suited to being the president of a parliament in a banana republic. It would seem he has exceeded his role that should apply to a neutral chairman or president of a parliament. I believe this is an example of political bias on an extraordinary scale.”
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder seemed delighted by the news. "It's not surprising that UKIP has lost friends and alienated people in the European Parliament," she said in an emailed statement. "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."
Despite a rise in anti-European parties, political balances remained broadly unchanged in the European Parliament following the elections held between 22 and 25 May, with the centre-right and centre-left parties on track for a grand coalition.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won 221 seats in the European parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with 189 seats (out of 751).
In the last European election, the EPP won 265 seats and the S&D 184. The Parliament was slightly larger at the time, counting a total of 766 seats.
This is the fourth consecutive victory for the EPP since the 1999 election and another disappointment for the Socialists, who failed to reverse the balance of power in Parliament, despite the popular resentment over austerity.
The centrist liberal groups could got 59 seats, Green parties 52 and the right-wing Conservatives and Reformist group, 46.
The far-left obtained 45 seats, while the far-right Europe of Freedom and Democracy group got 38.
- 16 Oct. 2014: Remaining delegations elect their presidents and vice-presidents
Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy
- Press release: Political blackmail by federalists leads to MEP resignation and collapse of Eurosceptic group in European Parliament (16 Oct. 2014)
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