A euroskeptic bloc within the European Parliament has collapsed. A Latvian member has pulled out of the group, breaching an EU rule that at least seven countries must be represented in a parliamentary faction.
The euroskeptic bloc formed after Europe's 28-nation election in May was dissolved on Thursday. Iveta Grigula of Latvia departed, depriving the other 47 parliamentarians of funding and roles in committees.
The exit also prompted European Parliament President Martin Schulz to postpone the assembly's decision over this year's Sakharov human rights prize until Tuesday next week. Nominees include Ukraine's pro-EU Maidan protestors.
Half of ex-faction British
Half of the euroskeptic contingent had been from Britain's UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by Nigel Farage, with a further 17 from the Italian anti-establishment 5-Star Movement led by satirist Beppe Grillo.
Farage (pictured addressing parliament) and Grillo had headed the now defunct Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD). Grigule was the sole member representing Latvia's Union of Greens and Farmers.
European parliament spokesman Jaume Duch - in a message on social networks - said: "Latvian MEP Iveta Grigula left EFDD group today. EFDD no long has members from at least seven countries, so [it is] declared dissolved today."
The loss of faction status relegates the ex-EFDD parliamentarians to simply sitting alongside elected parliamentary members from France's far-right National Front and forced to periods allocated for parliamentary speeches, unable to draw on special parliamentary funds and having lost certain rights.
Center-right EPP celebrates
There was a celebratory response from the main center right European People's Party (EPP) faction in the parliament, which alternates its sittings between Brussels and Strasbourg.
"First defeat for euro-skeptics!" the EPP said in a follow-on message.
Cameron facing challenge
Ahead of a by-election next month in the English town of Rochester, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday London should have "one last go" at trying to renegotiate Britain's EU membership.
Cameron's Conservative party is facing a neck-and-neck challenge in Rochester from a UKIP candidate, Mark Reckless - ahead of a decisive British parliamentary election in May.
Reckless is the second of two Conservatives in the British parliament to defect to UKIP since August.
In a by-election earlier this month in another area, Clacton, the other Conservative, Douglas Carswell, became UKIP's first elected member of the British parliament.
ipj/es (AFP, Reuters, dpa)