In Brief

Eurosceptics set for breakthrough at EU Parliament

Snapshot of polls suggest anti-EU parties will grow by more than 60% at next May’s election

Eurosceptic parties are poised for significant growth in their representation at the European Parliament, a survey of national opinion polls suggests.

Between them, they are forecast to end up with about 60% more MEPs after next May’s elections, winning 122 of the 705 seats.

The snapshot of polls is “rough and ready”, says Reuters, but nevertheless “indicates a clear strengthening for movements outside the mainstream”. It will pile further “pressure on EU leaders pressing for deeper integration after Brexit”.

The numbers reflect the popularity of anti-establishment parties at national level across Europe. These include Italy’s 5-Star Movement and The League, now in a governing coalition, as well as Alternative for Germany, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly the Nation Front) and Geert Wilders’ Dutch Freedom Party.

And the challenge to Brussels may intensify. Steve Bannon, the architect behind Donald Trump’s shock 2016 presidential win, is planning to launch a new “movement” to coordinate and bolster the anti-EU vote, and has reportedly met a series of European right-wing leaders including Le Pen, Alice Weidel of Alternative for Germany, Hungary's Viktor Orban and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Bannon also announced plans to develop a new “supergroup” within the European parliament, The Independent reports. He expressed the hope that it would attract up to a third of MPs after the elections next May and hold real sway over future direction of the bloc.

However, says Reuters, capturing more than 15-20% of the European Parliament for parties firmly hostile to the EU “looks from the survey evidence to be an uphill struggle for the former White House strategist”.

The EU’s main Eurosceptic parties are currently spread across several transnational party groupings in the Parliament.

New party alignments in the next EU legislature will depend heavily on horse-trading after the elections, but if a unified anti-EU group were to emerge its numbers would be offset by the loss of UKIP, whose 19 MEPs will leave when Britain quits the EU in March.

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