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.”