Verhofstadt currently heads the ALDE group, the fourth largest in parliament in the last legislature. He will seek re-election and is also a member of ALDE’s so called “Team Europe,” a list of potential candidates for the European Commission presidency.
Speaking on Thursday at a debate on the future of Europe in Florence, Italy, Verhoftstadt again said that after the May 23-26 European elections he wants to form a “new, centrist political family”.
It is thought this could involve a possible partnership with French President Emmanuel Macron and candidates from his La République en Marche! (LREM), or Republic on the Move party.
Any such link up appears to fly in the face of an apparent recent rebuttal of any arrangement by Stephane Sejourne, Macron's European election campaign chief. The French president’s fledgling party has no MEPs as it was created after the last EU parliament elections five years ago.
Macron is thought to have been cool to the idea of joining a possible ALDE alliance, instead preferring to create his own centrist coalition involving other reshuffled traditional families in the next parliament, which will sit for the first time after next month’s elections.
Speaking recently, LREM French MP Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, who is in charge of alliances with other European political groups, said the party does not want to be allied to any one particular European family.
On Friday, however, any possible moves in the coming weeks to forge a post-election alliance between ALDE and President Macron’s LREM party were welcomed in some quarters.
Andrew Duff, a former senior Liberal Democrat MEP from the UK, told this website, “This development has been planned for many months and is very welcome. A large progressive federalist group is very much needed in the European Parliament and, indeed, in the Commission and Council. Conservatism is out of fashion and Socialism does not wash.”
"A large progressive federalist group is very much needed in the European Parliament and, indeed, in the Commission and Council. Conservatism is out of fashion and Socialism does not wash” Former Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff
Duff, a respected figure who is still closely connected to EU politics via his role with the European Policy Centre, a leading Brussels-based think tank, believes that any members of Macron’s LREM who are elected to parliament next month “will have to be in a transnational group.”
He asked, “Why else fight the European elections?”
He also thinks that any UK Lib Dems candidates who are elected - assuming they take their seats post May 26 - will also agree to sit with the new “centrist” group being promoted by Verhofstadt.
Meanwhile, the UK Liberal Democrats have announced the list of MEP candidates in England and Wales for the elections.
The UK has been granted a “flexible extension” of the Article 50 period until the 31 October and if it is still a member of the EU on 23-26 May and has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by a majority vote in the UK Parliament before 22 May it is obliged to hold elections in accordance with European Union law.
A Liberal Democrats spokesman said the party will fight the elections as an “unapologetically pro-European Party campaigning hard for People's Vote with an option to remain in the EU.”
Its leader Sir Vince Cable said it had “a strong, diverse mix of candidates, from those who’ve joined the Liberal Democrats recently to those with long experience of the European Parliament. We will fight these elections on a clear message: a Liberal Democrat vote is a vote to stop Brexit.”
“Across the country, the strength of our membership of 100,000 is being deployed to prepare for the elections. We are determined to give a voice to the millions of people who demand better than Brexit Britain.”