UK Eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage forms European Parliament group
Britain's increasingly popular Eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage has scored a new victory, putting together a group in the European Parliament after winning the support of a French far-right defector.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front, is also expected to soon announce the formation of a rival Eurosceptic group.
"I am very proud to have formed this group with other MEPs and we undertake to be the people's voice," Farage said.
His UK Independence Party (UKIP) last month tripled its seats in the EU assembly from eight to 24, ahead of both Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party.
It needed to muster lawmakers from seven European Union countries to announce the formation of a group.
"We will be at the forefront working for the restoration of freedom, national democracy and prosperity across Europe," Farage said.
His Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group will gather 48 members against 31 in the previous European Parliament. The largest contingent is made up of members from UKIP, followed by 17 from the Italian populist 5 Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo. The other MEPs are from Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Latvia, as well as France's Joelle Bergeron, who was elected under the banner of the National Front led by Le Pen but who quickly fell out with the party and became an independent.
Farage had refused to set up a group with Le Pen because of her party's alleged anti-Semitism.
Forming a group not only provides more political visibility and the possibility of chairing committees, but also up to €30 million (HK$315 million) in funding.