Farage Saves Euroskeptic Group with Front National Defector

The UKIP leader cobbles together just enough allies to maintain his bloc in the European Parliament.

Britain’s Euroskeptic leader Nigel Farage has been able to save his group in the European Parliament thanks to the defection of a lawmaker from France’s National Front.

The survival of Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy, which is dominated by his own United Kingdom Independence Party, looked in doubt after last month’s election, when the Danish People’s Party, the Fins Party and Italy’s Northern League left the bloc while other Euroskeptic members failed to win reelection.

UKIP, which calls for a British withdrawal from the European Union, almost doubled its seats, going up to 24. But without belonging to a bloc, a party doesn’t qualify for significant subsidies or committee assignments.

Rival bloc

On Monday, a member of the Dutch Christian right also left Farage’s group to join the rival European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which is led by Britain’s ruling Conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice party.

The Danish People’s Party and the Fins Party have also joined the ECR, as has the Alternative for Germany. Thanks to its seven seats, the reformists — who want to scrap the commitment to “ever-closer union” from the European treaties — have been able to overtake the liberals as the third largest party in the European Parliament.

That left Farage short of allies. In order to be recognized as a bloc, parties must have at least 25 members from seven EU member states.

Farage lured Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement into an alliance, giving him almost double the required number of lawmakers. On Thursday, his party said the Latvian Farmers’ Union and the Sweden Democrats would join as well.

The Danish People’s Party had ruled out grouping with the more radical Sweden Democrats, blocking their entry to the ECR.

To reach the required seven nationalities, Farage admitted Joëlle Bergeron, a defector from Marine Le Pen’s National Front, who is trying to form her own bloc.

Another rival bloc

Winning 24 seats in the European Parliament last month, the French nationalists beat the country’s mainstream right- and left-wing parties into second and third place. The Austrian and Dutch Freedom Parties declared their allegiance to the Front before the elections, as did Belgium’s separatist Vlaams Belang and Italy’s Northern League, meaning they had to find allies in two more countries.

Poland’s Janusz Korwin-Mikke met with Le Pen and other party leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, suggesting that his conservative Congress of the New Right might join the bloc.

The Bulgarian National Movement, which was one seat, has yet to join a bloc and could put Le Pen over the top.