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Finns Party joins British Tory MEP group

Finland’s populist, hard-right MEPs have joined the European Conservatives and Reformers group in the European parliament. They will switch from the Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping , swapping a caucus dominated by Britain’s UKIP for one founded by the British Conservative Party.

Timo Soini Perussuomalaisten vaalivalvojaisissa.
Timo Soini Perussuomalaisten vaalivalvojaisissa. Image: Yle

The British Conservative Party is set to join forces with controversial Finns Party MEP Jussi Halla-aho, a noted immigration critic who has a conviction for inciting ethnic hatred.

Newly-elected Halla-aho and his fellow Finns Party MEP Sampo Terho will switch allegiance to the European Conservatives and Reformers group, which was founded by the British Conservative Party. They leave behind the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, which contains Italy’s far-right regional separatist Lega Nord and the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party.

The Finns Party had been looking for a new home since elections to the European Parliament last month. According to Terho they have been attempting to maximize their influence by negotiating with different Eurosceptic groupings.

Finns Party leader Timo Soini says he’s satisfied with the choice, pointing to the group’s 55 MEPs and offering support for the British Prime Minister’s attempts to re-negotiate the terms of EU membership.

”David Cameron is trying to negotiate a leaner and better EU and now there is an attempt to seek support for that,” said Soini. “This economic situation and the EU’s situation is bad at the moment and it needs reform.”

Soini told Yle that the diplomatic dance between different fringe groups in the parliament could yet yield more defectors to the ECR, possibly pushing the group’s numbers up to 60.

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