New eurosceptic group to campaign against EU treaty in Irish referendum
The Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group – the new eurosceptic party formerly known as the Independence-Democracy Group - announced its party name and political programme on Wednesday (1 July).
The new party of 30 MEPs also intends to campaign against the Lisbon Treaty in the second Irish referendum likely to be held this October, with the party's co-president, Nigel Farage of UKIP, laying down a strong marker at the party's first meeting in the European parliament.
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"We will do our damndest in the second referendum to make sure that the people of Ireland understand that these so-called ‘guarantees' that they were given at the recent European summit, frankly are not worth the paper that they were written on," he said.
Irish prime minister Brian Cowen successfully secured legal guarantees in the areas of taxation, social issues and neutrality from EU leaders who met in Brussels last month, in the hope they will persuade Irish voters to back the EU's reforming treaty a second time round.
However Mr Farage said Irish voters had already rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum last June, just as French and Dutch voters rejected the similar Constitutional Treaty in 2005, but politicians were not willing to listen to their responses.
"Mr Barroso and his cronies don't understand what the word ‘no' means," he said.
Whether the new party will actively campaign in Ireland during the second referendum has yet to be decided Mr Farage told EUobserver, but the party is currently seeking expert advice on the legality of the three 'guarantees' and will distribute information in Ireland during the campaign.
"I'm hoping by the time we pack up in Strasbourg for the summer [in two weeks time], that we will have a more advanced plan of action," he said.
Party make-up and political programme
The new party will be dominated by the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) with 13 MEPs and the Lega Nord party from Italy with nine MEPs.
Francesco Speroni from the Lega Nord will be the second co-president of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, along with Mr Farage.
The Laic Orthodox Party (LAOS) from Greece will contribute two MEPs to the new eurosceptic party, as will the Danish People's Party.
The Mouvement pour la France, the Reformed Political Party from the Netherlands, the True Finns and the Slovak National Party will all contribute one MEP, bringing the current total to 30 MEPs from eight countries.
Mr Farage said the party was still in negotiations with several other parties around Europe and hoped to bring more deputies on board before the first plenary session in Strasbourg on 14 July.
Mr Farage also outlined the new party's four-point political programme on Wednesday, with the document placing strong emphasis on the principles of democracy and the sovereignty of nation states.
"The group favours an open, transparent, democratic and accountable co-operation among sovereign European states and rejects the bureaucratisation of Europe and the creation of a single centralised European superstate," reads the programme.