Grillo moves to ditch Farage
Beppe Grillo. Source: Wikimedia
Italy’s increasingly successful, anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) has voted to break its European Parliament ties with the UK Independence Party (Ukip).
M5S members backed founder Beppe Grillo’s call to join the liberal bloc ALDE, which is set to make it the third-largest parliamentary group. A M5S tweet confirmed that more than 40,000 members backed the party’s MEPs joining the centrist bloc which includes UK Liberal Democrats among its members. Around 78.5 per cent of members who voted backed the move.
ALDE members will discuss a deal with M5S today (Monday) while Ukip MEP and former leader Nigel Farage criticised the move.
Farage said the Five Star Movement had “joined the EU establishment”.
“Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment of ALDE which supports TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], mass immigration and an EU army, but oppose direct democracy,” Farage argued.
Grillo forged the alliance with Ukip’s then leader, Farage, after the 2014 European elections.
At the time he ruled out joining ALDE, which was led by former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is now one of the EU’s main Brexit negotiators.
The U-turn is likely to be interpreted as a sign of Five Star watering down its anti-EU stance and an attempt to broaden its appeal as looming Italian elections must be held in the next 14 months. Polling suggests M5S could emerge with the biggest share of the vote but its reluctance to work with other parties might prevent it from forming a working coalition.
Grillo blogged that after Ukip had achieved its Brexit success, the British members of the group would be engaged with little else.
To remain in the EFDD would be “tantamount to facing the next two and a half years without a common political goal”, the former comedian wrote.
In contrast with the liberal bloc, M5S is anti-euro and is calling for a referendum on whether to leave the single currency.
M5S’s departure leaves Ukip’s group, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), weakened as 22 of its MEPs are from Ukip and 17 come from M5S with five others.
It has 27 MEPs while the minimum for a group to qualify for European parliamentary subsidies is 25. Also EFDD would only have members from eight countries while the minimum requirement is seven.
The EFDD collapsed in October 2014 after a Latvian MEP pulled out.