January 31, 2014 / 8:35 PM / 5 years ago

Britain's anti-EU party considers cooperating with German eurosceptics

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s anti-EU party has met regional heads of Germany’s new eurosceptic party to discuss a possible alliance in the European Parliament after the May elections that could give them more leverage in Brussels.

Neither UKIP nor the AfD have seats in their respective national parliaments but fringe parties with an anti-EU bent are expected to do well in the European elections, which would undermine mainstream political blocs.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), told Reuters he had two “very productive” meetings with regional members of the upstart Alternative for Germany (AfD) over the last few months.

Bernd Lucke, who co-founded the AfD less than a year ago, has repeatedly expressed scepticism over cooperating with UKIP, due to its populist rhetoric and anti-immigration stance.

The AfD has flirted with anti-immigration rhetoric, warning against the danger of foreigners exploiting Germany’s generous welfare system, but the party also calls for a more concerted drive to bring qualified immigrants to Germany.

“I am aware that the AfD leader wants to join forces with the Conservative Party but it is pleasing to know that very many senior members of AfD instead wish to enter an alliance with our party,” Farage said, adding that members had the final say on what alliances were formed.

The AfD, which is polling between 4-5 percent, railed against EU federalism at its party convention last weekend and defended national sovereignty. But it did defend EU accomplishments such as the creation of a common market.

UKIP, which is seen beating Britain’s governing Conservatives at the European elections, is more radical, calling for the end of Britain’s European Union membership and a drastic cut in immigration.

Reporting by Tom Koerkemeier; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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