Conservative Party Leader David Cameron is trying to sabotage UKIP’s influence at the European Parliament, just days after trying to appear sympathetic to euroscepticism by telling the British people that their message at the polls was “received and understood.”
Instead of accepting UKIP’s victory, Cameron has started a drive to cut off the legs of “the people’s army” in Brussels and Strasbourg. He has assigned Conservative Party fixers to do deals with hard-right and populist parties which, until now, the Conservatives claimed were “unacceptable.”
The Tories are trying to stop Nigel Farage from forming a political group in the parliament by poaching UKIP’s longstanding allies; eurosceptic parties from Finland and Denmark.
This would leave UKIP MEPs mute and powerless in an assembly which demands that parties form an alliance with members from at least six other countries before they can sit on a committee or receive funding.
Last week Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was in Denmark telling Copenhagen television that the Danish People’s Party (DPP), which sat with UKIP’s group in the outgoing parliament, would now be welcome to join in the Tories’ Europe group at the European parliament.
Yet in 2009, Conservatives rejected an approach from the DPP to join their group, “because of their unacceptable views in a number of areas.”
The DPP is anti-immigration, anti-EU and anti-multiculturalism. Members of the DPP have in the past likened the headscarf worn by Muslim women to the Nazi swastika and “comparable to other totalitarian symbols.” In 2002, Morten Messerschimdt, MEP for the DPP, was convicted along with three other members of the DPP’s youth wing of incitement to racial hatred.
In 2005, when the Swedish government castigated the Danish government for tougher laws on foreign spouses being allowed to live in Denmark, the then-leader of the DPP, Pia Kjaersgaard, responded to Swedish criticism by saying: “If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmoe into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honour killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Oeresund Bridge.”
Meanwhile the Tories also find that they now are willing to sit alongside the eurosceptic Finns Party which has described immigrants as “parasites on taxpayers’ money” and suggested ethnically Finnish women should have more babies. They have called immigrants “asylum tourists.”
While Cameron’s move might enrage the so-called Tory moderates, Nigel Farage will be enraged, too. He already faces the prospect of another member of his group, the Italian anti-EU Lega Nord, leaving UKIP’s group to join the Front National of Marine Le Pen and the Dutch People’s Party of Geert Wilders, two right-wing, anti-EU parties with whom Farage has said UKIP will not sit.
Despite UKIP now being the biggest British party at the parliament, unless it can form a political group with members from at least six other EU member states, it will be denied seats on the parliamentary committees that control amendments, scrutinise legislation and question officials from other EU institutions such as the European Commission and European Central Bank.
Moreover, UKIP will be denied the millions of euros in funding which the parliament hands over to groups to allow them to hire staff, establish a secretariat, carry out research and even set up think tanks.
For example, in the 2012 budget, UKIP and the MEPs from ten other countries in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, had an allocation of more than €2.5m, with €881,000 still in the bank carried over from the previous year’s grant. This was on top of all the expenses individual MEPs were given to run their offices, research and travel.
By contrast, the giant pro-EU powers European People’s Party (EPP), from which Cameron removed the Conservative MEPs in 2009 as a sop to his party’s eurosceptic wing, was allocated €21m.
If Cameron manages to strip away UKIP’s allies and leave Farage and his MEPs without a group, then Britain’s biggest party and Britain’s only eurosceptic voice in the parliament will be facing the power of the vastly rich EPP, and the almost-as-rich centre-left socialists (€14m), with no cash at all – and no committee seats from which to make political impact as these two mega-groups drive their permanent pro-EU majority through the parliament.