The Conservative Party strategy to cut away eurosceptic allies from Nigel Farage and UKIP has had another success in the European Parliament, with the single member of a Dutch party abandoning UKIP’s caucus and joining the Tories’ European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.
While the defection by Bas Belder, an MEP who is the only representative of the tiny Protestant right-wing Dutch Reformed party in the parliament, may seem unimportant in Britain, it is in fact endangering UKIP’s chances of forming the necessary group of at least 25 MEPs from at least seven countries.
Farage and the other 23 UKIP MEPs must be part of a group or else they will not have the right to sit on committees or have extra speaking time in the assembly. They will be unable to obtain any share of the multi-million euros pot of cash which the parliament gives to groups to fund their political activities in Brussels and Strasbourg.
The British Conservatives, stung by UKIP’s success in the elections to the European Parliament last month which pushed the party into third place, have been determined to stop UKIP profiting from their British victory in the coming five year parliament, which begins its first session on July 1.
In order to limit UKIP influence, the Conservatives have poached MEPs from anti-immigration, anti-EU Continental political parties which used to sit with UKIP and which in the past the Tory leadership found “unacceptable.”
Now Belder, from a party which “defends Christian culture and values in the Netherlands” and takes positions “based on the Bible” and believes that “Biblical values and standards are good for everyone,” has been persuaded to leave UKIP’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) and group to join the ECR group which has just nominated the British MEP Sajjad Karim to be president of the European Parliament.