Beppe Grillo’s Eurosceptic 5 Star Movement today (9 January) voted overwhelmingly to join Guy Verhofstadt’s ALDE Liberal group in the European Parliament in a move that could cost UKIP millions of euros.
The decision, reached by online referendum, leaves the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, which is dominated by Nigel Farage’s UKIP, perilously close to collapse.
The defection of a single MEP would be enough to spark the dissolution of the EFDD, costing it millions of euros in EU funding. The group, which received about €3.8 million in group funding last year, was already facing the 2019 post-Brexit loss of its UKIP members.
EFDD Group president Nigel Farage MEP said, “Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment of ALDE which supports TTIP, mass immigration and an EU Army, but opposes direct democracy.
“5 Star have joined the EU establishment.”
Hanno votato 40.654 iscritti
Per il passaggio all'ALDE il 78,5% pari a 31.914 iscritti, 6.444 per l'EFDD, 2.296 per i non iscritti
— Movimento 5 Stelle (@Mov5Stelle) January 9, 2017
Verhoftstadt, a Euro-federalist, is due to meet Grillo later today to discuss the possible alliance. If they seal the unlikely pact, the ALDE leader could face backlash from pro-EU MEPs.
The fallout could cost Verhofstadt valuable support ahead of next week’s vote for the new European Parliament president.
Verhofstadt is a candidate and launched his campaign Friday (6 January) by promising to stand against populists such as Grillo.
European Parliament groups qualify for extra EU funds and additional speaking time. In order to form a group, a minimum of 25 MEPs from at least seven member states are needed.
The EFDD has 44 MEPs from eight countries. If 5 Star leaves, it will have 27 MEPs representing seven nations. But three of those MEPs represent one country each, meaning that it if one of them was to be tempted away, the group would collapse.
In October 2014, the EFDD came close to collapsing but was rescued after it recruited a polish MEP from a party led by a racist.