Wednesday

19th Sep 2018

Focus

Grillo MEPs to join Farage group after referendum

  • Beppe Grillo (l) and Nigel Farage - allies in the EP (Photo: Nigel Farage)

Members of Italy’s main opposition party, the Five Star Movement (M5S) of comedian Beppe Grillo, voted by an overwhelming majority on Thursday to join forces in the European Parliament with British eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage, in a controversial referendum in which the M5S members were offered limited choices.

The poll, hosted by Grillo’s blog, had only three voting options: joining the Europe for Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, led by Farage’s UK Independence Party; entering the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, dominated by Britain’s Conservative Party; or staying as “non-inscrits” in the EP, eschewing all pan-European alliances.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Just under 30,000 people – against 5.8 million who supported the M5S in last month’s European elections – took part in the online poll, which was open from 10.45am to 7pm.

About 78 percent picked the EFD as a coalition partner, against 12 percent who backed the non-inscrits option and 10 percent who sided with the ECR.

In a video illustrating referendum options, M5S supporters were told that by joining an EP group the movement would gain influence, staffing and funding, while retaining its “identity and political autonomy”.

They were also warned that staying as “non-inscrits” would amount to “political suicide” as it would exclude the M5S from key decisions.

Internal M5S rules mean that if the EFD fails to mobilise sufficient partners to form a group – 25 MEPs from at least seven countries are needed – M5S deputies will enter the “non-inscrits” faction, as the second-best option voted by party members.

Farage was confident that the EFD would make the grade.

In a statement, the Ukip leader said he was “extremely pleased” with the outcome of the M5S referendum.

“This gives a great confidence boost to those other delegation members who are coming to sign up to our common group next week. This feeds into a process of solidifying what should be a big group,” he added.

Ukip, which emerged as the biggest party in Britain’s EU elections, wants to limit immigration and lead the country out of the bloc. The M5S, which refuses left/right pigeonholing, campaigned for a referendum on Italy’s euro membership and for the abolition of budget discipline treaties such as the Fiscal Compact.

Controversially, Grillo and his right-hand man Gianroberto Casaleggio excluded the Greens from the list of potential allies, despite the M5S’ support of some of their key positions, on trade, energy and GM foods. The decision attracted a flurry of negative comments from Grillo blog readers.

“We are ready to open negotiations, we have several battles in common,” French Green MEP Jose Bove had told Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano.

Ignazio Corrao, M5S delegation leader in the EU assembly, admitted to online news agency Eunews that the decision to rule out the alliance with the Greens was “taken in Rome” over the heads of elected MEPs.

“We weren’t consulted,” he said. “From the start, it was decided that Beppe [Grillo] and Casaleggio would have led the negotiations, and that is how it was.”

With 17 MEPs, the M5S is poised to become the second-largest delegation in the EFD, behind Ukip’s 24-strong ensemble, while it would have been the dominant force among the Greens/European Free Alliance, where 11 MEPs from Germany currently outnumber all other national delegations.

Greens reject Beppe Grillo's offer to team up

The EP's Greens have rejected a request by Italy's Five Star movement for group membership. Meanwhile Ukip's Farage may have difficulty forming an EP political group.

News in Brief

  1. EU investigating BMW, Daimler and VW 'collusion'
  2. Spain wants special Gibraltar chapter in Brexit deal
  3. Italy cancels Vienna talks over South Tyrol 'dual citizenship'
  4. Britain will not accept Brexit deal with Irish Sea border
  5. Slovakia seeks witness to journalist killing
  6. Finland's Stubb considers running for EU commission job
  7. Romania ponders anti same-sex marriage referendum
  8. EU lawyers back Slovenia in Croatia border dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. EU promotes 'Egypt model' to reduce migrant numbers
  2. Tensions mount over Kosovo-Serbia deal
  3. New book: Why war is coming
  4. EU parliament will not budge on office expenses
  5. Why Orban's project to reshape EU politics will be unsuccessful
  6. 10 years after Lehman Brothers what has changed for EU consumers?
  7. Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president
  8. Is Russia blackmailing the Council of Europe?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us