An Italian far-right party has been admitted to the Conservatives’ EU-wide political group – putting the post-fascist outfit in official alliance with Theresa May’s MEPs.
The Brothers of Italy, or Fratelli d’Italia, on Thursday joined the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, which was set up in 2009 by David Cameron as a Eurosceptic breakaway.
The Italian party is a descendent of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement, which was set up by supporters of Benito Mussolini in 1946. It is resolutely anti-immigration, anti-Islam, and anti-LGBT rights.
It is led by Giorgia Meloni, a former leader in the youth wings of the Italian Social Movement and its defunct successor the National Alliance.
“Today, with the support of Giorgia Meloni, the conservative and sovereign pole is strengthened to change and make a change in Italy and in Europe,” said Raffaele Fitto, vice-chair of the alliance.
The admission of Fratelli d’Italia, whose MEPs have been sitting with the Tories in the European parliament since the autumn, is not the first controversial alliance the Conservatives have made in Europe.
The Tories’ European parliament group also includes anti-immigration outfits such as the Danish People’s Party, the Finns Party and Sweden Democrats. Poland’s governing right-wing populist Law and Justice party is the largest member after the Tories, and will dominate the group if it survives Brexit and the next European elections.
Theresa May was earlier this month urged to condemn her most senior MEP after he was photographed sharing a platform with Mattias Karlsson, the leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats in the Swedish Riksdag.
A spotlight was also shone on the Tories’ associations with the far right last year after their MEPs defied the European mainstream and voted against sanctions on the Hungarian government of Viktor Orban.
The latest move attracted criticism from other parties.
“Yet again the Tories show their true colours by aligning with a fascist party,” Julie Ward, a Labour MEP, said.
“Not content with getting into bed with Victor Orban’s illiberal Fidesz party they seem horribly at ease with other dodgy politicians. When will they say enough is enough?
“With fascism on the rise across Europe now is the time to wake up and remember our history. We know that such right-wing alliances do not end well.
“Political movements that scapegoat migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are responsible for the xenophobia that threatens our liberal and open societies. We must defeat this disease of bigotry, racism, and hate that is fuelling politics.
“However, the Conservatives don’t seem to be interested in promoting peaceful tolerant and respectful societies, which is hugely irresponsible and immoral. Theresa May’s hostile environment is their contribution to the international order of things.”
David Cameron pulled his party out of the mainstream centre-right European People’s Party in 2009 under pressure from the right of his party because of the group’s pro-EU stance. He set up the Conservatives and Reformists group as the new home for the Tories and like-minded parties across Europe.
The Independent has contacted the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe for comment.