The Brexit Party has refused to rule out joining a new alliance far-right parties in the European Parliament, fuelling concerns that Nigel Farage could link up with extremist parties once safely re-elected.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s extreme-right League party, invited Mr Farage’s new outfit to join his group at the weekend, saying he was “waiting for” the arch-eurosceptic.
Brexit Party did not respond to repeated requests by The Independent to clarify whether it would be joining the alliance, which would see it sit alongside Mr Salvini, Marine Le Pen, and other extreme-right parties from across the continent.
Mr Farage previously claimed that he had founded The Brexit Party to escape Ukip’s increasingly extremist direction. The new outfit is leading in the polls ahead of this week’s European Parliament election – despite so far having left voters in the dark about what its policies are on issues beyond EU membership.
“I'm waiting for Nigel Farage. We can work together, I hope,” Mr Salvini told the BBC on Saturday, responding “yes” when asked if he wanted the Brexit Party to join his group.
The Italian interior minister, whose party has provoked controversy with proposals to ban critical academic textbooks and make migrants homeless, added that he would like to link up with the Brexit Party on the issues of immigration and economics.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, told The Independent: “It is time for Mr Farage to come clean and rule out a coalition of hate with Mr Salvini and his gang of pro–Russian puppets, who have benefitted from Russia's special war against the West and are a threat to our security and our traditional values.
“Salvini, Farage and their pro–Kremlin extreme right have consistently opposed EU sanctions against Russia. Farage even voted against a European Parliament resolution in March criticising the Kremlin for the Skripal attacks in Salisbury. The British people need to know the truth about their sordid plans for our continent.”
Mr Salvini launched the new group in April to unite popular and far-right groups from across the continent in a single group in the Parliament, with the stated objective of taking control of the EU institutions.
French far-right leader Ms Le Pen said at the time that said she wanted the largest group possible and that Mr Farage was "welcome" in the alliance.
Projections based on polling from the EU’s 28 member states suggest that populist, eurosceptic, and far-right groups would form the largest group in the parliament if they united together – but they have so far remained splintered due to political differences and personal rivalries.
The Italian leader has already recruited the anti-Islam Danish People’s Party, Marine’s Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly National Front), and Germany’s AfD parties into his group, with more expected to follow. It is unclear whether other parties such as Viktor Orban’s Fidesz will join – the Hungarian prime minister currently sits in the mainstream conservative EPP group, though his party has been suspended.
Mr Farage's Brexit Party MEPs would give the group a substantial boost to its numbers, owing to the size of the UK and the number of MEPs it elects. A larger group would give it more power to get members on influential European Parliament committees and influencing EU policies during the crucial post-election period and beyond.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies