Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement swap UKIP for Guy Verhofstadt’s Liberals
In a blow to UKIP, Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement has voted in favour of leaving a UKIP dominated group and joining Guy Verhofstadt’s liberals.
Over in Europe, a new political alliance has been formed. Beppe Grillo’s populist party 5 Star Movement (M5S) has overwhelmingly backed a proposal that will see it swap political groups from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD) led by Nigel Farage in favour of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) led by Guy Verhofstadt.
Beppe Grillo made the proposal at the weekend and asked its 40,000 members to vote with the option of remaining with the EFDD, becoming independent or joining the ALDE. 78.5% voted in favour of the proposal to join ALDE.
An unlikely union?
It will be seen as a surprise move as M5S supports a referendum on Italy’s use of the Euro. Verhofstadt’s ALDE group is pro-Europe. However, it’s perhaps only a surprise if you conflate membership of the Eurozone to membership of the EU. Grillo’s party has maintained that it did not want to leave the EU.
As unusual as it may seem for Grillo to seek an alliance with the liberals, it will also be seen as unusual for ALDE. Verhofstadt recently launched his bid for presidency of the European parliament so the added support of M5S make it a little less unusual.
Grillo pointed out on his blog that M5S had only voted in line with UKIP 20% of the time. It has voted in line with ALDE members 50% of the time. Given the policy differences in EU voting, its union with UKIP is really the more unusual.
UKIP’s influence in the EU is dying
The EFDD is a eurosceptic political group in the European Parliament. UKIP make up the majority of the EFDD’s membership with M5S having the second highest number of MEPs in the group. The departure of M5S’ 17 MEPs from the group is bad news for UKIP as it means that it will see its influence in the EU further diminished as well as its funding possibly hit. EurActive reports that political groupings matter because membership to one can give a party “more politcial visibility” as well as up to “€30m in funding during the parliament’s five-year term.”
In support of the move, Grillo said that UKIP had “achieved its political objective” and that the vote to leave the EU would see British MEPs leaving the European Parliament.
The Telegraph also reports Grillo’s discomfort of reports that UKIP had misspent EU funding as another reason for M5S to make the move.
We also cannot hide a particular discomfort regarding the improper use of the foundation’s funds (which we reject and will continue to reject) by several EFDD colleagues in news reports from which we must distance ourselves.”
Beppe Grillo as quoted in The Telegraph
Grillo and Verhofstadt are due to meet today to discuss the alliance. ALDE has so far agreed to it in principle but it still needs to be ratified by ALDE’s membership and M5S.
Another blow to UKIP
Nigel Farage has responded to the news saying that “Star have joined the EU establishment”. Before the vote, Farage had said that it would be “completely illogical for M5S to join the most Euro fanatic group in the European Parliament.”
M5S’ departure from the EFDD means that UKIP will make up over 70% of EFDD’s membership with just two members above the minimum for a European Parliamentary political group.
UKIP is also in the process of fighting a finding by the EU that it had misspent over half a million euros in EU funding. This follows an investigation into the activities of the UKIP-dominated Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe (ADDE), which belongs to the EFDD.
A Guardian/ICM poll over the weekend shows that support for UKIP in the UK also seems to be down.