Far right unites in European initiative

If the English Defence League has its way, UK anti-Muslim protests could soon feature extremists from across the world

They achieve notoriety through a mix of combustible characters and often ugly protests, yet are kept on the political margins due to infighting and ill thought-out policies. But, next month, at a meeting in Denmark, some of Europe's most notorious right-wing groups will meet for the European Counter-Jihad Meeting.

Those attending could witness the birth of a right-wing movement, the European Defence League – and the beginning of a dangerous new phase in extremist politics.

Representatives from defence leagues in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the USA, Italy, Poland and Finland are due to attend, along with the anti-Muslim groups Stop Islamisation of Europe, Stop Islamisation of the World and the far-right European Freedom Initiative. It is feared the new umbrella organisation could co-ordinate right-wing activities across Europe while politicising and unifying disparate groups. The idea, which is being championed by the English Defence League (EDL), could be modelled on the European Union – with delegates from participating countries meeting regularly.

Weyman Bennett, spokesman for pressure group Unite Against Fascism, said the meeting in Denmark's second city, Aarhus, was the first meaningful meeting of such groups – which were looking at the EDL model and to mimic successful right-wing political parties in Eastern Europe, some of which have made it to government. He said: "The Euro-leagues are a new danger. We should not forget that it was the Norwegian Defence League that gave us [Anders] Brevik. The growth of a Euro-league in a time of economic crisis threatens to resurrect fascist street armies such as those that destroyed European democracies in the 1930s. The development of this network allows fascists and right-wing populists to share ideas, finance and experience in a way that should worry us all."

Mr Bennett added the groups would be using the euro crisis as a way to pull in new members, particularly from the middle classes.

He added: "We used to have a number of disparate groups. Now we are moving to a stage where we have fewer groups but they are more organised and sophisticated."

Some 50 EDL leaders – whose members have been involved in violent clashes with anti-fascist groups in the past – will travel to the meeting. "This is the first proper European Defence League meet. We have been building bridges for the last two years and this is going to be the launch pad," said Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the leader of the EDL, who is also known as Tommy Robinson.

He added the leader of each national defence league would sit on a panel and would meet "every three to four months". He said: "We will discuss tactics. Each country's delegates will get time to describe the problems they have. We will try to pool resources. For example, if another defence league wants to run a demonstration in their own country, they are unlikely to get as much media interest as if we were involved, so we would go over there and lend some support."

Dr Matthew Goodwin, an expert on the far-right at Nottingham University, said a Continent-wide far-right alliance would help extremist groups organise demonstrations, which carry the possibility of violence and provide access to better-resourced and organised groups in eastern and central Europe.

He said: "The strategy is to organise large marches for the media attention and to provoke anti-fascist and Muslim groups, as well as the local population. Wherever these movements go, there is a possibility of violent clashes. With the EDL, there are question marks over where the movement is heading, if not towards elections. This would be an indication of where it sees itself going."

Dr Goodwin added that, historically, the far-right has often tried to build alliances on the Continent. "If there is anything the Breivik experience taught us, it is that the European-level movements, which share ideas and resources, are very dangerous."

Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the move was "worrying". He added the MCB was trying to bring together Muslim groups to counter an increase in Islamophobia.

Last year, Mr Yaxley-Lennon announced that negotiations to set up a political wing of the EDL were at an advanced stage. An alliance with the far-right British Freedom Party was discussed and Mr Yaxley-Lennon said he hoped to stand candidates in the next round of local elections. That deal has not yet been concluded and it is thought that it has met with some resistance among the EDL's grassroots.

Yesterday, about 600 people travelled to Hyde, Greater Manchester, to take part in an EDL protest against an alleged attack by Asian youths on two white teenagers in the town. Eleven were arrested for minor public order offences.

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit