One of the European Parliament’s most outspoken eurosceptic group has collapsed after a Latvian MEP withdrew her membership. The bloc’s dissolution represents a financial blow to Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party.
The Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group had comprised of 48 members in total, including Farage’s UKIP and Beppe Grillo’s Italian Five Star Movement.
The defunct bloc has accused the Parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, of deliberately causing the withdrawal of Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule.
The EFDD claimed Schulz asked Grigule to resign from the group in order to adopt the role of president in a special delegation to Kazakhstan. Schulz has so far failed to comment on the matter.
The collapse of the group comes as a huge blow to Farage’s UKIP. The British eurosceptic party had 24 members in the bloc, representing more than half the entire group.
To qualify as an official group within the European Parliament, members are required to represent the parties of at least seven European states. Grigule’s exit reduced the number of parties from varying countries in Europe to a mere six.
With her departure, the group’s remaining party members – UKIP included – will no longer be entitled to the extra financial resources, committee seats, or additional speaking time they formerly enjoyed.
UKIP could face the loss of up to €14 million (US$17.8 million) worth of funding in the wake of the bloc’s collapse, the Financial Times reported.
The EFDD’s dissolution comes just days after Farage’s party secured its first parliamentary seat in Britain’s House of Commons. Commenting on the Euroskeptic group’s dissolution, Farage suggested it was symptomatic of strategic political bias.
“If we are correct in our understanding about the events, President Schulz would be more suited to being the president of a parliament in a banana republic…I believe this is an example of political bias on an extraordinary scale,” he told the Financial Times.
But The European People’s Party – the largest bloc on the European stage – welcomed news of the EFDD’s collapse.
“First defeat for Eurosceptic! EFDD group disappears with departure of Latvian Iveta Grigule,” the center-right group proclaimed on Twitter.