Ukip to team up in 'unholy alliance' with Steve Bannon's new far right European movement

Party pledges to share experience with the new group

Jon Stone
Sunday 29 July 2018 14:42 BST
Steve Bannon: People in EU countries didn't sign up to have their national identity taken away

Ukip has pledged to work with Steve Bannon’s new European alt-right movement, forging what critics have branded an “unholy alliance” to bring down the EU and fuel populism across the continent.

Mr Bannon, a former investment banker who founded the website Breitbart, has pledged to bolster the continent’s far right with a new foundation called The Movement that would dole out resources to eurosceptics and anti-EU populists.

The former chief strategist of Donald Trump has rattled Brussels after stating his intention to create a “supergroup” in the European parliament after next’s year’s EU elections, with extreme right-wingers taking as many as a third of the legislature’s seats.

Though Ukip MEPs will not be able to participate directly in the parliament because of Brexit, a spokesperson pledged that the party would share experience with Mr Bannon’s project to give it a leg up, stating they expected the group to have a “large impact” on European politics and hoped for “a new army of eurosceptic MEPs”.

Mr Bannon’s move into Europe also appears set to have an impact on the dynamics of Brexit talks, with one source close to Brexit negotiations telling The Independent that Brussels has been spooked by the alt-right project.

As a result, EU officials are increasingly resistant to calls for the Article 50 negotiating period to be extended, so as to avoid eurosceptic Britain participating in the European parliament elections scheduled for next May.

The EU is said to fear that such an outcome would see Ukip, which won the 2014 European elections in the UK, return to the parliament and bolster the numbers of Mr Bannon’s new anti-EU group.

Ukip teaming up with fascist-in-chief Steve Bannon is an unholy alliance of racist charlatans across the Channel

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP

“They really don’t want to see Farage back with Bannon for the sake of a few extra weeks,” one source close to talks said.

Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP and supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign told The Independent the British eurosceptic party were “desperately trying to make themselves relevant again” by joining forces with Mr Bannon.

“Ukip teaming up with fascist-in-chief Steve Bannon is an unholy alliance of racist charlatans across the Channel,” she said.

“Having been forgotten over the last two years, Ukip are desperately trying to make themselves relevant again. But they’ve got their work cut out for them: nobody wants to hear the verbal sewage coming out of a group whose only claim to fame is their rent-a-gob ex-leader.

“Now they want dark elements of the far right in America to help plot their nasty agenda. The dangers stirred up by this kind of right-wing populism are obvious, but terrifying for the many people who fear history might be repeating itself.”

A spokesperson for Ukip’s EFDD group told The Independent: “Steve Bannon certainly seems to offer a different perspective, and with his experience of American politics he could exert a large impact on the European scene which is currently going through quite a change.

“Ukip MEPs wish to leave the EU in March 2019 and have no desire to return to its facade of democracy in Brussels. The MEPs will however be happy to share their experience with a new army of eurosceptic MEPs from a liberated UK.”

Far-right, eurosceptic and right-wing populist parties are currently scattered across a wide range of groups in the European parliament, including the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) – as well as parties with no group.

Such parties are expected to make gains at EU level next year, as they have done in national elections since the last European parliament contest. Finding agreement between them to join a single group could be difficult, however, with many parties extremely cautious of their domestic image and loathe to ally with foreign parties that are seen as more extreme at home.

Some of the parties might turn their noses up at uniting under the leadership of an American organisation, too, as many have an anti-American political outlook.

Mr Bannon’s new foundation is not the first time the American right wing has shown an interest in intervening in European politics. Earlier this year there were calls to expel Mr Trump’s ambassador to Germany after he commented that it was his job to strengthen right-wing movements in Europe. Sigmar Gabriel, who serves as foreign minister until earlier this year, declared that Mr Trump wants “regime change” in Germany.

Ukip’s former leader Nigel Farage has close links with figures around Donald Trump, having met for talks with Mr Bannon earlier this year. The eurosceptic MEP campaigned alongside Mr Trump during the US presidential election, giving speeches at his rallies.

US media reports that The Movement will have headquarters in the EU’s de facto capital Brussels, with around 10 full-time staff expected to be in post before the European elections, and further expansion planned if it meets with initial success. Mr Bannon, who is expected to spend 50 per cent of his time in Europe, has given no details about where the money for the foundation is coming from or what level of funding he expects it to have.

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