Liblink: Catherine Bearder MEP on UKIP’s collapse in the European Parliament

As we reported yesterday, the loss of a Latvian MEP, Iveta Grigule from UKIP’s “Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy” group mean that is no longer eligible for group status, losing substantial budgets and (unwanted, unused) influence.

Catherine Bearder writes in the New Statesman

In a personal setback for Nigel Farage, the loss of group status will also mean he will no longer be able to make his long leader’s speeches at the European Parliament’s monthly sessions in Strasbourg, which he routinely used as a soapbox to insult European leaders and undermine Britain’s image abroad.

Ukip’s marriage of convenience with MEPs from Italian comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, which was already beginning to fray due to fundamental differences on issues like the environment, now looks unlikely to continue. If he wants to try and resurrect his group, Farage may well have to turn to more extremist allies such as Marine Le Pen’s French National Front, who he has already vowed not to get into bed with, and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Party for Freedom, whose attempt at forming a far-right grouping failed earlier this year. Far from dominating the European Parliament, it seems that anti-EU parties are more divided than ever.

It is telling, surely, that Grigule has moved not to the, lets call them moderately Eurosceptic, Europe of Conservatives and Reformists group, where Conservative MEPs sit, but straight to the European People’s Party. It was the EPP, remember that David Cameron insisted his MEP’s leave, at the cost of considerable British influence in European politics, as a symbolic act of bad diplomacy.

Across European capitals there is now widespread appetite for substantial changes to the EU to ensure it is more focused on the big issues where it adds real value, such as unleashing economic growth, protecting the environment and fighting organised crime. It is significant that the new European Commission, set to be voted on by MEPs next week in Strasbourg, will include a Vice-President for Better Regulation who will oversee all European legislation to make sure it’s fit for purpose. Lord Hill, the UK’s next Commissioner, has been put in charge of creating a banking union that will create huge opportunities for the British financial sector – tellingly, Ukip MEPs failed to turn up to a crucial vote on whether to approve him. Moreover, ambitious proposals are on the table to build a single market in energy and the digital sector and help kick-start growth across the EU. We need MEPs who will contribute to this process of reform, not seek to obstruct it. That is why the demise of Ukip’s group is both good news for the UK and Europe as a whole.

Read the whole thing here.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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14 Comments

  • Charles Rothwell 17th Oct '14 - 7:43pm

    He (the Head Kipper) can certainly forget any rapprochement at all with Le Pen (father or, more importantly, daughter). They both detest him and “corrupt” is one of the kinder words used for him. I wonder who within his ramshackle “People’s Army” he find to blame this one on? (Mind you, if he wins in Rochester, I do not suppose he will give the slightest proverbial about any of this but will already see himself on the way to Thanet (which (or a similar seat) it has all been about from the very start).

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Oct '14 - 7:54pm

    ” the EPP, remember that David Cameron insisted his MEP’s leave, at the cost of considerable British influence in European politics, as a symbolic act of bad diplomacy.”

    If this is such bad form, why did the lib-dems not join the ukip/5star group?

    You could have, you know, done some good there: moderated their politics perhaps, maybe even converted them through demonstrating real leadership and political grit.

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s because the political ideology is fundamentally divergent from Tory aims…

  • I think the worst think about the UKIP MEPs has been both their inactivity and failure to vote in favour of the UK’s interests; because in or out, Europe will continue to play a major part in UK life. I therefore wonder whether UKIP’s effective non-participation in Europe agenda is putting other anti-EU (but not anti-Europe) parties off.

  • Martin Pierce 18th Oct '14 - 7:48am

    We are of course eminently qualified to comment on collapses in the European Parliament following the disaster in May. If I were UKIP I might comment that I would rather have 24 MEPs than 1, whether they are in a Group or not.

  • Simon
    You never know, perhaps Mrs Farage has taught her husband some German (well away from the legendary multilingual trains where Nigel would have had apoplexy!)

  • At least we will be spared Farage’s headline catching insullts! Deo gratias!

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 18th Oct '14 - 3:17pm

    One day in the future, the whole UKIP charade will unfold and our nation will recognise that being ANTI everything wins few friends, wins many enemies, wins many debates for a joke – but NOTHING for the progress of anyone long-term anywhere. It is the longest ‘stunt’ ever and my generation should wake up before we die and leave the future in the proverbial. Being ANTI does not help anyone! If you don’t believe – check your local neighbours and community – try being ANTI and see what you get back.

    I will continue to vote for *good electoral process* [we want STV in England as Scotland has already], *wide positive policies and thinking* [we CAN have those with free thinking parties of several kinds], and a *solid governance* [which stays true to the people over decades and doesn’t jump to the media’s rant].

    Not wedded to Lib Dems now – as we don’t always shape up – but could do again!

  • Alex Macfie 18th Oct '14 - 4:17pm

    What exactly does it mean to “vote in favour of the UK’s interests” in the European Parliament? National interests in the EU are not homogeneous: the interests of a British banker in EU policy are not the same as those of a British cleaner or shop worker. Hence MEPs hardly every vote en bloc by nationality, instead forming ideological groups, same as in any other legislature.
    for this reason, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest issue with Cameron pulling his party’s MEPs out of EPP and forming the ECR group is not the loss of “British influence” (whatever that is), but the unsavoury raving-right politics of the party’s resulting European allies — something the Lib Dems did nothing whatsoever to capitalise on during the European election campaign. the fact that the UK now has 24 MEPs who do not turn up to vote is largely down to the inept Lib Dem campaign in which we gave UKIP free publicity by allowing the campaign to be fought on Farage’s preferred territory. We said nothing about what we have done or would do as LIBERALS to make the EU work for its citizens, which is the whole point of a liberal party fighting European elections. This was a travesty and is why we now have only one MEP, contributing to ALDE falling into 4th place behind the Tories’ raving-right group.

  • jedibeeftrix 18th Oct '14 - 4:58pm

    @ Joe – “The EPP is mainstream centre-right, and not too Europhilic for an erstwhile UKIP ally to join. Cameron could find allies for most of his reform agenda in the EPP if he looked.”

    I think that is a stretch!

    http://www.brugesgroup.com/news.live?article=94&keyword=23

  • ” … unleashing economic growth… “

    Heavens! Which planet is that on? The EU, most specifically the euro, is a major factor in the perma-depression much of the continent is now suffering. It was an ill-considered project from the outset driven by a political agenda that ignored clear warnings of disaster.

  • “You can never have too much Schadenfreude as far as I’m concerned (not, of course, that UKIP would have the faintest idea what it meant).”

    Too right, we Kippers are really stupid and uneducated, and don’t understand long words in foreign languages! Not like you clever Lib Dems. In fact foreign words shouldn’t be allowed into English at all. They are immigrants, and we should send them back like the aliens they are!

    I notice this piece is written by the sole surviving Lib Dem MEP. Ploughing a lonely furrow I would have thought what with the other ten of her compatriots losing their seats?

    When I think of Paul Haydon, and Rebecca Taylor, Sir Graham Watson, Phil Bennion and all the rest of those hard working, committed MEP’s no longer elected to parliament I feel a sweetness in their sorrow. A delight in their pain.

    If only there was a word to encapsulate such an emotion.

  • Ooops. The schadenfreude seems to have been misplaced. Shame!

    Now you guys are reduced to complaining about how the Polish guy who replaces the Latvian loon is a wife beating lover of Hitler.

    Well it IS the European Parliament! Which, (we contend) is an undemocratic joke..

    You couldn’t make this stuff up. The sooner we leave the EU the earlier we get back our sanity and dignity as a nation.

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