Despite determined tactics by the British Conservatives to stop it, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, the caucus in the European Parliament that has been the platform in Brussels and Strasbourg for Nigel Farage and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), has now signed up enough members to allow the EFD to continue into the new parliament.
This will allow MEPs in the group to sit on committees, have increased speaking time in debates and have a share in the multi-million euros pot of money the parliament gives to groups to fund political activities.
So crucial is forming a group for UKIP that the British Conservatives at the European Parliament have been poaching MEPs who were members of the EFD in the last parliament, trying to stop Farage and UKIP making their numbers.
This week the Conservatives, who have been embracing right-wing MEPs they used to declared “unacceptable,” even signed up a Dutch politician from a party which banned female members until 2006 and still does not believe in equality between the sexes.
Despite that, a spokesman for the EFD has confirmed that in addition to the 24 UKIP MEPs and the 17 MEPs from the Italian Five Star Movement of anti-establishment politician Beppe Grillo who were signed up last week the EFD group will include two Lithuanians, one Czech, one French MEP, two Swedes, and one Latvian, putting the group at 48 members.
That is well over the minimum 25 MEPs required and it meets the parliament’s demand that members be drawn from at least seven countries.
Farage, who will remain president of the group and therefore keep the important front row seat in the parliament’s chamber from which he has launched his attacks on the EU institutions, said: “We have struggled against much political opposition to form this group and I am sure it will operate very well. Now it is formed I expect other delegations to join soon.”
“I am very proud to have formed this Group with other MEPs and we undertake to be the peoples’ voice.”
Grillo said: “Now we will start working in Committees and we will have peoples’ voice heard in the European institutions, without intermediaries. This is great!”