Posted on Jun 01, 2019
There was nothing surprising whatsoever about the revelation this week that Nigel Farage has been in discussions with Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party formerly known as Front Nationale, and Matteo Salvini, the Italian politician who at a European elections rally in Milan, in 2009, notoriously called for racial segregation on Italian public transport. The two are currently in the process of forming a new political “supergroup” in the European Parliament, the “Europe of Nations”.
Salvini, currently Deputy Prime Minister of Italy and Minister of the Interior, has had a long standing connection with Farage since he joined his Independence & Democracy group in the European Parliament way back in 2004, as an MEP within the separatist Lega Nord party, which was to be subsequently expelled from the group following allegations of racism, but then allowed to re-engage when in 2009 Farage was struggling to form a new group, and desperately needed the Italian right-winger’s support.
Later, in 2014, rumours were circulating of possible negotiations between Farage and Le Pen, when both were struggling, again over forming a new group, and were possibly considering forming a group together. Those rumours were well founded, EU Today can confirm.
Indeed, when each found themselves one nationality short of the required threshold to maintain a group, one UKIP MEP left to join Le Pen, whilst one of Le Pen’s left to join Farage’s group. As a result of this dubious but conveniently timed exchange, both groups were saved. It is also. notable that Farage has been very positive in his comments about Le Pen recently.
So why is it so important for Farage to have his own political group in the European Parliament?
He himself has often said that MEPs have larger budgets and more parliamentary staff at their disposal as members of a political group, and this is indeed the case. However, as a group president, it also the case that Farage has personally enjoyed certain privileges, and, most importantly for him, greater media exposure as he has the right to lengthy speaking slots on key note debates in parliament. Considered by many to be a narcissist, and one who loves the sound of his own voice, Farage thrives on media attention.
Last week in Brussels MEPs from various national delegations met to discuss the formation of the so-called “supergroup” comprised of the populists and Eurosceptics who achieved sweeping votes across the EU. Although Farage has always publicly distanced himself from such characters, such a group, which in terms of size would be on a par with some of the more centrist groups, would provide him with a far greater platform then he has previously had on the European stage.
The meeting turned sour, at least for Farage, when it was declared that his services as group president would not be required.
He had possibly not realised that Le Pen and Salvini control political forces which represent more than mere contrarianism, and which have wider and deeper support than he can take the time to try to understand. He apparently thought that his “star quality and recognisable face” would be enough to dazzle them. That may be the case in Britain, but elsewhere in Europe it is not enough. Sorry, Nigel.
It is also the case that Brexit will in all probability mean his term in office will end in October when the UK leaves the bloc. Instability, as Farage will understand, is the last thing a political group in the European Parliament needs, and there is also Farage’s ability to foster divisiveness in any body of people - did he study Lenin, one often wonders?
And so, faced with rejection, Farage is reported by the Sun newspaper to have pulled out of negotiations.
Salvini and Le Pen will be far more interested in Italy’s Five Star movement, who it is understood will be joining the supergroup. In the last legislature they were members of Farage’s EFDD group, and so until the new groupings are announced, they technically still are.
When Five Star sign up the Europe of Nations the EFDD group will be dead, and Farage his MEPs will offer the ignominy of being Non-Escrit - MEPs who have no political group, and who Farage himself has always dismissed as failures and no-hopers.
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