UIkip leader Nigel Farage has welcomed the possibility of a “magnificent” alliance with Beppe Grillo, the controversial Italian politician who has been widely accused of antisemitism.
Mr Farage met Mr Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (5SM), in Brussels to discuss a possible deal between their parties in the European Parliament.
In a statement, Mr Farage said: “If this works out it would be magnificent to see a swelling in the ranks of the Peoples’ Army. If we can come to an agreement, we could have fun causing a lot of trouble for Brussels.”
A Ukip spokesman said: “Grillo and Farage agreed after an animated and very amicable encounter to meet again in the next few weeks.”
Both men see themselves as leading “people’s parties”, and both were successful in last month’s European elections — Ukip winning 24 seats and 5SM seeing 17 MEPs elected.
Mr Grillo is a comedian, actor and political activist whose popularity has soared in elections in Italy in the past two years. He advocates reducing funding for Italian politicians and an end to corruption.
But he has also been caught up in controversy. Critics accuse him of supporting Mussolini and fascism and last year he refused to apologise after using Primo Levi’s Holocaust poem If This is a Man to attack the Italian government.
He used a series of antisemitic tropes to defend his actions and posted a picture on his blog of Auschwitz’s infamous “Arbeit macht frei” sign in reference to discussions about a Masonic lodge.
Mr Grillo defended himself against criticism from his own party — whose members were aggrieved by the suggestion that they could sit with Mr Farage and his colleagues. Some complained that Ukip was too xenophobic and anti-immigration.
Mr Grillo told the Daily Telegraph of Mr Farage: “He is not the way he is described, just as I am not the fascist and Nazi the Italian papers describe me as. He wants to control flows of immigration in Europe, like us. It is not true he is a racist.”