Nigel Farage's anti-EU European Parliament group collapses after Latvian MEP leaves

Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule leaves EFDD

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The Independent Online

Ukip’s run of success came to an abrupt halt today, when the political group it had formed at the European Parliament collapsed in a fiasco that could cost the party £1m a year.

Under the EU parliament’s rules, groups must have 25 MEPs from at least seven countries to qualify for public funding. Nigel Farage is frantically trying to attract a replacement for Iveta Grigule, the only Latvian MEP in his Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFDD) group.

Ukip, whose 24 MEPs made up half of the now defunct group, blamed dirty tricks by the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest in the Strasbourg parliament. It claimed that EPP leaders had told Ms Grigule she must resign from the EFDD in order to win the presidency of a Parliamentary delegation to Kazakstan.

Mr 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. I believe this is an example of political bias on an extraordinary scale.”

However, some Brussels insiders suggested that positive remarks about Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, by Mr Farage and other members of his group may have played a part in Ms Grigule’s decision, because they played badly in Latvia.

Other parties revelled in Ukip’s setback. A Conservative spokesman said: "This is further evidence that, as Nigel Farage himself has admitted, Ukip can't change a thing in Europe. They stand on the sidelines shouting but have no plan, no influence, and now have no group. It is only the Conservative Party that has a credible plan to reform the EU and then to give the British people a say on our membership, and it is only the Conservative Party that can deliver on this plan."

 

Glenis Willmott, leader of Labour’s MEPs, said: "While a massive blow to Nigel Farage, this news makes little difference for Britain. Ukip's group may have given Nigel Farage a front-seat soapbox from which he could preen for the cameras, but it has never helped advance British interests. The EFDD comprised people with extreme views, and to resurrect his group, Mr Farage will probably have to turn to even more racist, homophobic and antisemitic allies."

Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP, said the collapse of Ukip’s group was “the first defeat for Eurosceptics”. He added: “Radicals and populists are utterly divided. Good that EFDD is no longer playing an official role.”

Catherine Bearder, the one Liberal Democrat MEP, said: “It’s not surprising that Ukip has lost friends and alienated people in the European Parliament.”

Ukip has declined to join up with Marine Le Pen’s National Front to create a new far-right group in the Parliament. She may now revive plans for a “European Alliance for Freedom”, which failed to come to fruition after the European elections in May.

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