The group of Liberals in the European Parliament (ALDE) headed by Guy Verhofstad, have rejected a proposal by the Italian 5-Star Movement to join them after Beppe Grillo’s split with the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Italy’s main opposition party said they rejected traditional left-right ideological labels, but it has been an embarrassing gaffe for EU’s chief Brexit negotiator only days after the outspoken Belgian politician announced his intention to run for the presidency of the European parliament.
ALDE Leader Verhofstad told a French news programme, 64′ on Monday: “I have come to the conclusion that there are not enough guarantees to push forward a common agenda to reform Europe.”
“There is insufficient common ground to proceed with the request of the Five Star Movement to join the ALDE Group. There remain fundamental differences on key European issues.”
“However, on issues of shared interest, such as the environment, transparency and direct democracy, the ALDE Group and the Five Star Movement will continue to work closely together.”
Grillo, founder of the 5-Star, proposed splitting with UKIP on Sunday and its members backed the idea in a vote on Monday.
Nigel Farage stands to lose millions in EU funds if his EFDD group collapses as a result of M5S’ defection. It might drive UKIP into the arms of Marine Le Pen.
Farage poked fun at Grillo over his double dealing after the news of the collapsed deal surfaced. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Farage said: “I didn’t expect to be proved correct so quickly.”
Back in December, Verhofstadt put his name to an amendment that would mean MEPs could only form groups according to their political affinity.
Sylvie Goulard, the French ALDE MEP who considered running for Parliament president, told EurActiv France she’s concerned about 5 Star leader Beppe Grillo’s “xenophobic and nationalist opinions”.
German Green MEP Sven Giegold, said Verhofstadt had lost his political credentials: “The Liberals did well to end their negotiations with the eurosceptic 5-star movement. Guy Verhofstadt’s deal was stopped by more principled liberal colleagues.
“His candidacy as pro-european successor of Martin Schulz lost not just 17 votes but most of its political credentials.”