The British National Party’s first foray into Brussels ended in failure yesterday after it was unable find enough allies on the far-Right to form an official group in the European Parliament.
Nick Griffin, the party leader and one of its two newly elected MEPs, has agreed instead to work informally with a loose group of five ultra-nationalist parties, notably the Front National of the veteran French racist Jean-Marie le Pen.
Mr Griffin had pinned his hopes on persuading the nine MEPs of Italy’s Northern League to ally themselves with the smaller far-right parties, but was shunned by the party, led by Umberto Bossi and part of Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling coalition.
The failure to meet the threshold of 25 MEPs from at least seven countries to form a parliamentary group means the loss of up to a million euros a year for the far-right parties which could have been spent on staff, offices and publications in Brussels, Strasbourg and their home countries.
“It appears at present we are below the threshold,” said Mr Griffin, after talks at the European Parliament in Brussels with its key allies from France. He spent two days there with fellow Andrew Brons, his fellow party MEP. “We have to see how the other political groups get on with their negotiations and if they cannot do a deal whether they will deal with us.”
Mr Griffin said that he had had a friendly response from other MEPs and added: “Virtually everyone is here to do the best by their constituents and on that basis we will work with anybody.”
The ultra-nationalist parties interested in working together informally included Jobbik — the Movement for a Better Hungary — Vlaams Belang from Belgium (the Flemish Interest) and Attack from Bulgaria, he said. But despite the increased number of MEPs elected this month from the far-right end of the political spectrum, the BNP grouping could attract only 12.
Besides the Northern League’s nine MEPs, the putative group was also shunned by the anti-Islamic Dutch Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, which won four seats. Although banned from Britain for his outspoken views, Mr Wilders has also expressed his dislike of the Front National and Flemish Interest as he attempts to appeal to mainstream voters in Holland.
Similarly, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, regarded as right-wing nationalist, will not sit with the BNP or Mr Le Pen, who repeated his denial of the Holocaust in the last parliamentary session. The DPP, which has two MEPs, regards itself as more centrist and has been a coalition partner in the Danish Government.
Nobody, however, seems prepared to touch the Greater Romania Party, whose MEPs were involved in the break-up of the far-right Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty group in the last Parliament. They broke up the group after only 11 months in a row with Alessandro Mussolini, the daughter of Il Duce, after she called all Romanians criminals.
The Northern League has been vetoed by David Cameron from joining the new anti-federalist group being formed by the Conservatives with Czech and Polish MEPs. The Italian party may now link with the UK Independence Party as it tries to find at least six allies to meet the threshold for a formal group.
Parties are expected to declare their groupings in time for the European Parliament’s inaugural sitting on July 14.