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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 13:28 GMT
British MEP joins far-right bloc
By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News

Ashley Mote's website
Ashley Mote is an MEP for the South East of England
A former UKIP MEP is to join a new group in the European Parliament which includes some of Europe's most prominent far-right political parties.

Ashley Mote, an independent MEP for the South East of England expelled from UKIP in 2004, will join the "Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty" group.

UKIP said it was "appalled and horrified" by Mr Mote's decision and called on him to resign his seat.

But Mr Mote said the new group would be "good for the Parliament" and voters.

He said: "The formation of a genuine centre-right multinational group in the European Parliament is long overdue.

"So is the need for the clear expression of the views held by millions of European Union citizens who profoundly disagree with the federalists and their vocal left-wing."

He said it was "difficult to imagine any MEP sensitive to the needs of their constituents disagreeing" with the founding principles of the group.

'Super state'

These include "recognition of national interests, sovereignties, identities and differences," commitment to Christian values, the family and the "traditions of European civilisation".

GROUP MEMBERS
French National Front
Austrian Freedom Party
Vlaams Belang (Flemish nationalists)
Greater Romania Party
National Union Attack (Bulgaria)
Alternativa Sociale, Fiamma Tricolore (Italy)
Ashley Mote (Independent)

The group also opposes "a unitary, bureaucratic, European super-state" and promotes accountability and transparency.

Mr Mote sought to distance himself from the domestic political activities of other members of the group, which is led by French National Front member Bruno Gollnisch, currently awaiting a verdict on charges of Holocaust denial.

"May I make clear that I am not involved in the political activities of any of the other member states represented in ITS.

"Nor are MEPs from those member states planning to involve themselves in British politics.

"We have already sat together for 30 months in the non-attached group.

"We have now merely reorganised ourselves to create a better platform for the next 30 months."

He said the new group would encourage discussion and be a "force for change" and would also mean "the other groups will no longer be able to ignore us".

'Shocked'

Mr Mote told the BBC News website he had been forced to sign up to the new group "as a direct result of UKIP's actions" in expelling him.

And he described the party's call for his resignation as "[UKIP leader Nigel] Farage at his most absurd".

Mr Mote had the UKIP whip withdrawn in 2004 after he failed to tell party managers he was facing trial over allegations of housing benefit fraud.

He claims the prosecution is politically motivated.

A UKIP spokeswoman said it was "shocked and horrified" that Mr Mote would be sitting "with people like [French National Front leader] Le Pen".

"People in the South East of England did not vote for this and he should have the decency to resign and give UKIP back their seat," she added.

Mussolini

As a recognised political group in the parliament, the new grouping will get greater funding and will have a say in setting the agenda for debating sessions.

Until the recent enlargement of the EU - when Romania's five far-right MEPs and Bulgaria's one joined the parliament - there were not enough MEPs to form a far right group.

The rules say an official group in the Parliament can only be formed if it has at least 19 MEPs from at least five countries.

The new group includes the Austrian Freedom Party and the Belgian Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang.

It has seven French MEPs (National Front), five Romanians (Greater Romania party), three Flemish MEPs (Vlaams Belang) and two Italians, including Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the former dictator Benito Mussolini.

The Greater Romania party gave the grouping its critical mass. The party is known for its anti-Semitic, anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian views.

UKIP, which has 10 MEPs, is a member of the centre-right Independence and Democracy group in the European Parliament.


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