Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) will remain allied to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) within the European Parliament, Nigel Farage has confirmed.
Grassroots members of the anti-establishment party voted for their MEPs to break ranks with the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group, where they sit with UKIP’s 20 MEPs, over the weekend, apparently without the knowledge of the M5S MEPs themselves.
But the following day members of the liberal Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group rejected the Italians’ bid to join, leaving them with few options.
As no official notice to quit the group was given, and as relations between the two parties’ MEPs seem to be relatively cordial, they have now opted to remain within the EFDD group.
Speaking from Brussels, President of the EFDD Group, Nigel Farage MEP, said: “I am happy to say that any differences between Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement and myself have been resolved in an amicable manner.
“After a few administrative changes we will, next week in Strasbourg, continue with our work together in the EFDD Group.
“The Grillo campaign for a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro is gaining momentum. I have long admired his work in Italy and wish him well.”
He added: “The anti-Establishment campaign in Europe is really just starting.”
Meanwhile the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, has been accused of “twisted and cynical politics” for his role in encouraging Grillo to move his 17 MEPs out of the EFDD group and into Verhofstadt’s liberal ALDE group.
Janice Atkinson MEP, Vice President of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group, which counts among its members France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, said Verhofstadt had engaged in “twisted and cynical politics which set a new low even by the standards of the European Parliament”.
She appeared to suggest that Verhofstadt had purposefully lured M5S away from EFDD by dangling the offer of ALDE membership, only to retract it days later in a bid to look tough.
She said: “This calculated and despicable manoeuvring by Mr Verhofstadt and his federalist cronies is a patent attempt to bolster his presidential credentials, where he is standing for election to take over the Presidency of Martin Schulz.
“By rejecting the 5SM at this time, shows he is playing tough. He’s playing to the MEP electorate.”
However, a UKIP source told Breitbart London that Verhofstadt’s actions were more likely to have been borne of hubris than calculated malevolence. The source speculated that Verhofstadt may have felt that securing the addition of 17 new MEPs to the ALDE group would allow him to present himself as a unity candidate; a bid which has now backfired.
MEPs will gather in Strasbourg, France, next week to select their next president.