Eurosceptic EFD group 'will stay loyal to UKIP' in new European parliament

The European parliament’s Eurosceptic EFD group has said it will not expand its membership to include an expected influx of far right French MEPs.

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

03 Apr 2014

French MEP Marine Le Pen's Front National party is currently on track to win anything between 17 and 24 seats in the upcoming European elections. A tie-up between Le Pen MEPs and the Eurosceptic EFD group in parliament has been rumoured for several months.

However, Ukip leader Nigel Farage, whose eight MEPs currently form a substantial chunk of the EFD group's membership, has publicly said that he would refuse to form an alliance with Le Pen because of her party's extreme far right views and anti-Islamic rhetoric.

Farage's UKIP are also expected to substantially increase their MEP numbers following May's elections, with an estimated 18-22 deputies.

Speaking at a press conference in parliament on Wednesday, Bulgarian EFD deputy Slavi Binev listed the group's priorities for the upcoming European elections as, "fighting corruption, highlighting double standards and tackling EU hypocrisy".

"Euroscepticism is different across the EU" - Slavi Binev

When quizzed by journalists to be more specific on what issues, if any, the group would actually campaign on, Binev admitted that due to the disparate range of political views of the parties within the group, it was difficult for everyone to all agree, as, "not all Eurosceptic parties necessarily believed in or wanted the same things".

"Euroscepticism is different across the EU", said Binev, adding, "My Ukip colleagues want to leave the union, or at least renegotiate British membership; others want to make EU membership more democratic and accountable. But we all want Europe to be something better."

When pressed on whether the group would look to include Le Pen's Front National MEPs, Binev said that he hoped that Farage and Le Pen could find some common ground that would potentially allow both parties to sit together in the EFD after the elections.

But he admitted that the main problem in accepting Le Pen's Front National MEPs into the group was with Ukip. "An alliance [between the two] appears impossible at the moment and if that is the case then I think we should stay loyal to our friends in UKIP," he said.

"Ukip... has a broadly libertarian, liberal economic view; Marine Le Pen takes a very different view. There is no question of us sitting in the same political group with her" - Roger Helmer

Reiterating the Ukip line that political parties in the European parliament are forced into group alliances that sometimes produce "strange bedfellows", Ukip deputy Roger Helmer said that, although on some issues such as excessive EU regulation and stronger European integration the French Front National and Ukip were generally in agreement, "we cannot agree with Le Pen on her racist policies".

"Ukip also has a broadly libertarian, liberal economic view; Marine Le Pen takes a very different view. There is no question of us sitting in the same political group with her."

However, Binev told this website that even without Le Pen's members, he expected the new EFD grouping post-election to contain anywhere between 60-100 MEPs, making it potentially a far more influential force.