BNP struggling to make friends in Brussels

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The British National Party's first two Euro-MPs are finding it increasingly hard to win friends and influence people in Europe.

BNP leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons both won seats in the euro-elections - and so far they have chalked up three notable rebuffs.

First, they were unable to muster enough allies to form an official political grouping in the European Parliament, which begins work next week.

Second, they were asked to leave one of the main drinking haunts of European Parliament staff and MEPs in Brussels.

And now they find they are not on the Government's guest list for a formal drinks party for British MEPs in Strasbourg next week.

The pair are still trying to form workable political alliances with other right-wing MEPs, but they seem unlikely to muster the necessary minimum of 25 MEPs from at least seven member states which would trigger substantial funding for staff, as well as improve prospects of influential committee seats and speaking time in the European Parliament chamber.

After one recent visit to the European Parliament's Brussels headquarters searching for political bedfellows, Mr Griffin, MEP for the North West region, repaired to nearby O'Farrell's bar, where he sat at a table outside to be served.

Soon afterwards he was asked to leave. According to another drinker on the premises at the time: "He was sitting quietly outside, and then he was recognised and he was told he wasn't welcome."

The same bar is one of the regular watering holes of UK Independence Party leader (Ukip) and MEP Nigel Farage, who is trying to put as much political distance between his party and the BNP as possible.

The third and latest snub for the democratically-elected BNP duo has come from the Government, which has left Mr Griffin and Mr Brons off the invitation list for a cocktail reception in Strasbourg next Wednesday.

A Government spokesman explained the decision was part of established policy towards elected extremists, even though they are accorded the same basic government facilities as other elected individuals.

"The same general principles governing official impartiality apply in the European Parliament as they do for Westminster groups and MPs.

"UK Government officials will provide all MEPs with standard written briefings as appropriate from time to time, for example on the MEPs' Statute, with no differentiation.

"British and other MEPs can also be provided with factual written briefing on specific policy issues upon request, again with no differentiation."

The spokesman went on: "However, the long-standing policy of the Government is that officials will not engage in any other contact with elected representatives of any nationality who represent extremist or racist views, unless specific permission has been granted to do so on a particular occasion from the FCO Permanent Under-Secretary and the Minister for Europe.

"On the basis of this policy, MEPs representing the BNP are not invited to the reception on Wednesday. UKIP MEPs have been invited."

Andrew Brons (Yorkshire and Humber) was not far off when he predicted after the election that his victory would not be "universally popular".