British Euroskeptic party leader Nigel Farage’s group in the European Parliament collapsed on Thursday when Latvian Farmers’ Union member Iveta Grigule resigned from the alliance.
The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, which is dominated by Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party and the Italian anti-establishment Five Star Movement, accused European Parliament president Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, of engineering Grigule’s resignation. Schulz’ office denied such wrongdoing.
The group’s survival had looked precarious after May’s European Parliament elections when the Danish People’s Party and the Fins Party joined the rival European Conservatives and Reformists, a mildly Euroskeptic bloc that is led by Britain’s ruling Conservative Party and Poland’s Law and Justice. Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland also joined that group, making it the third largest in parliament.
Farage also lost the support of Italy’s separatist Lega Nord which grouped with the Netherlands’ Freedom Party and France’s Front national instead.
At the last minute, the UKIP leader persuaded a Front national defector, Joëlle Bergeron, to join Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, giving him the required seven nationalities to be recognized as a bloc.
Having now lost that status, Farage’s members no longer qualify for committee assignments, speaking time and subsidies. Open Europe, a British think tank, estimates the group could have collected €3.8 million in annual subsidies.
The collapse of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy could be a chance for the Front national‘s Marine Le Pen and Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to revive their own hopes of forming a Euroskeptic alliance. They failed to win the support of more than six parties in the summer.
Farage ruled out an alliance with the Dutch and French nationalists, saying the former were Islamophobic and the latter antisemitic. Yet he did ally with the Sweden Democrats whom Le Pen and Wilders had refused to admit to their group for being too xenophobic.
The Lithuanian Order and Justice party, another former Farage ally, might also be too radical as far as Le Pen and Wilders are concerned. The Czech libertarian Party of Free Citizens is far less objectionable but its economic liberalism contrasts with the protectionism especially Le Pen advocates.