Open Europe Blog

***Update 18:30*** 

We flagged up earlier that Beppe Grillo was in talks with Nigel Farage and it looks like they have gone well:

This could be a very interesting development – stay tuned!

***Original Post***

The dust is beginning to settle after the European elections, and aside from the drama over the appointment of the European Commission President, the other big developing story is the exact composition of the groups within the new European Parliament.

As we predicted in our pre-elections briefing, despite many commentators predicting the its demise, the ECR group survived, albeit in a diminished state. However, there is a chance it could still end up making up its loses by attracting fresh recruits such as the Belgian N-VA, the Finns party, and, more controversially, the AfD or the Danish People’s Party. There has been speculation that Law and Justice could move to the EPP but we consider this unlikely.

Therefore, the big question is: how will the record number of seats for a whole range of anti-EU and protest parties translate into EP groups? (regular readers will know you need at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 different member states). Assuming there will be no formal alliance between the two, the question is whether there will be two ‘anti-EU’ groups – a ‘moderate’ group headed by UKIP and Nigel Farage and a ‘far right one’ headed by Front National and Marine Le Pen, and if so, which one will be larger. Farage and Le Pen virtually have the requisite number of MEPs on their own but it remains to be seen whether they can get 6 other national factions on board.

As we illustrate below (click to enlarge), theoretically, the numbers are there for both but it depends heavily on how exactly the parties end up lining up. UKIP’s EFD group are potentially more attractive to new members, but they are also more vulnerable to losing MEPs both to the ECR and to Le Pen’s new European Alliance for Freedom (EAF) group, with Lega Nord having already jumped ship.

Click image to enlarge

Le Pen has just given a press conference in Brussels, but nothing new emerged. For the moment, her alliance includes five countries and 38 MEPs – what she described as an “extremely solid basis”. Therefore, two more countries (and parties) are needed to wrap up a group, but Le Pen, Wilders & co. were all extremely tight-lipped when asked what these parties could be.

While the neo-fascist MEPs will remain beyond the pale for everyone, the question is will Farage and Le Pen want to link up with parties like Janusz Korwin-Mikke’s Congress of the New Right? This could be the missing piece of the jigsaw for both Farage and Le Pen but given that Korwin-Mikke has said that it is “not possible to rape a woman” and that “there is no proof Hitler knew about the Holocaust” the question is whether the domestic reputational costs of such an association would outweigh the benefits. An intriguing possibility would be a Farage-Grillo alliance (the two met today) but ultimately we think this is unlikely.

One potential – and highly ironic – scenario would be if neither group attracts enough national factions in order to satisfy EP rules thereby missing out both on lucrative taxpayer subsidies as well as a highly visible platform from which to undermine the EU from within. In the longer term, could this yet lead to a rapprochement between Le Pen and Farage?

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