Farage woos Italy’s ‘rebels’ as he builds coalition

 

Brussels

The Ukip leader Nigel Farage said on Wednesday night he hoped to “have fun causing a lot of trouble for Brussels”, by agreeing to form a new group in the European Parliament with an Italian anti-establishment party led by a former comedian.

As coalition-building got underway, Mr Farage met with Beppe Grillo, whose Five Star Movement came second in Italy’s European Parliament elections.

“If this works out it would be magnificent to see a swelling in the ranks of the peoples’ army,” said Mr Farage.

For his part, Mr Grillo said: “We are rebels with a cause, and we shall whistle as we march.”

Ukip said in a statement that Mr Farage “agreed after an animated and very amicable encounter to meet again in the next few weeks” with Mr Grillo. It added that they share a “mutual fascination and admiration for each other’s work and campaigning style”.

The two leaders may seem unusual bedfellows. Mr Grillo’s party claims to be neither left nor right but rails against the political establishment. While Ukip also says they are libertarian, they have much clearer support from the right wing. Both are, however, pushing for national referendums: Mr Farage on Britain’s membership of the EU, and Mr Grillo on pulling Italy out of the euro.

The talks came after far-right parties inflicted a stinging defeat on the political mainstream, with Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National also trying to find new allies.

Ukip is a member of one of the seven political families in the European Parliament which unite parties from different countries.

Their current Europe of Freedom and Democracy group would grow to 38 seats following last week’s elections, up from the 31 seats it gained in 2009 – but Mr Grillo’s 17 MEPs would give them a further boost.

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