Monday, 19 July 2004

Eurosceptics have united to form a new anti-Constitution group in the European Parliament – the new group was announced today (29 June).

By Richard Carter

Eurosceptics have united to form a new anti-Constitution group in the European Parliament – the new group was announced today (29 June).

Likely to be called “independence and democracy” (ID) – the group consists of 31 MEPs from 6 countries and will focus on rejecting the EU Constitution.

This is a considerably larger group than the previous eurosceptic group in the parliament – the group for a Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD) – which had 18 MEPs from four countries and so will have a much bigger voice in the European Parliament.

The group also said that discussions are ongoing with other potential members.

It will be co-chaired by veteran Danish MEP Jens-Peter Bonde and UKIP boss Nigel Farage for the first two and a half years. They will then be replaced by another joint Presidency comprised of a Swede and a Pole.

Two wings, one aim

The group, which is very much a marriage of convenience, will have two wings separated by their ultimate aim for the EU.

The first wing is more moderate in nature, advocating transparency, but not withdrawal from the EU.

Representing this group will be the June Movement from Denmark, the June List from Sweden, the French Mouvement pour la France, and Dutch MEPs from the ChristenUnie.

The other section of the group will be more hardline and will push for nations to withdraw from the EU.

In this section are the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the nationalist Roman Catholic Polish League of Families – both of which advocate withdrawal from the EU.

Marriage of convenience

Their common platform – as they disagree on many policies – is campaigning against the Constitution.

“The overall aim of this group is to reject the draft EU Constitution. That is what brings this group together”, said Mr Bonde.

“In the fight against the Constitution, this group is united”.

Speaking for the other “wing” of the group, UKIP leader Nigel Farage agreed. “We want the same thing”, he said. “We just seek other ways of getting there”.

And he welcomed the fact that this was, as he termed it, “a marriage of convenience”.

“I have absolutely no problem at all about getting together with these people”, he said, emphasising the fight against the Constitution but admitting, “we may have very different views on other issues”.

Paul van Buitenen, who won two seats in the Netherlands on a “transparency” ticket, is unlikely to join the group, confirmed Mr Bonde.

“We would happily have had him with us”, said the Dane, “but I think he has decided to go differently from us”.

Instead, Mr van Buitenen is likely to join the Greens.

This article first appeared on EU Observer.