Despite losses in Britain and Poland, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) look set to become the third largest group at the European Parliament.
Created by the British Conservative Party in the last parliamentary term it had been derided as a fringe group but now has enough applicants to take over the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats group (ALDE) as the third largest group.
Before the last European Election it was thought that the ECR group may have to fold as it would not have MEPs from enough different countries to continue to be recognised by the European Parliament. But at a meeting last night six new parties joined the group from a total of five countries. These included some controversial choices like the Finns Party (previously known as True Finns) and Danish People’s Party, both of whom have been accused of holding extreme views.
They will join the remaining 19 Conservative MEPs and 27 others from across the continent. This gives the group a total of 56 members compared to 65 from ALDE but the ECR is still in negotiations with a number of parties including Bulgaria Without Censorship and Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) who have a total of nine MEPs between them. If they both join next week ECR will match the ALDE, and this raises the real possibility of overtaking them completely as further parties apply to the group.
One problem with the plan to expand the group is that British and Polish MEPs are coming under intense pressure from the German Chancellor Angela Merkel not to admit AfD as they represent a threat to her Christian Democratic Union. She is said to have made it clear to David Cameron that she will make it hard to gain concessions if AFD are admitted to the ECR group.
A Conservative source told Breitbart London: “Merkel is deeply unhappy with AfD joining the ECR but the prize is pretty big if they do, overtaking the Liberals. For years the three big groups have stitched everything up between them, and belittled everyone else. This is a chance to teach them a lesson.
“The Polish and British may well succumb to German pressure not to allow the AfD in, but by remarkable coincidence new membership applications have been considered in two tranches. After the first tranche was put through yesterday there are enough MEPs to approve AfD even if both Britain and Poland vote against.”
Membership of political groupings in the European Parliament is voted on by simple majority of the existing MEPs. The membership negotiations have been led by Martin Callanan, the former leader of ECR who lost his seat in the European Parliament last month. His departure will trigger a leadership election.
A strong ECR group will make it easier to push through reforms, and will be a counter balance to the federalists who dominate the parliament. Members of ECR want to remain in the EU but to heavily reform it so it becomes a club of independent nations rather than a United States of Europe.