Brexit victory looms as Brit-friendly MEP lined up as next EU chief

David Sassoli says European Parliament ‘will not fail’ in 2021

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If the Maltese politician is confirmed in the post, her appointment is likely to be good news for the UK, given her European People’s Party is better disposed to Britain than the late David Sassoli’s Socialists and Democrats group, explained Pieter Cleppe. Italian Mr Sassoli, a former journalist, died early on Tuesday in hospital in Italy at the age of 65.

Mr Cleppe, a research fellow with the think tank Property Rights Alliance, told “Apparently an EPP MEP from Malta, Roberta Metsola, is expected to succeed him. This follows a power struggle which ultimately saw the social democrats endorsing her.”

Mr Cleppe added: “The Greens won’t support Metsola but if EPP, socialists and Emmanuel Macron’s Renew back her (which seems the case now), she’ll be the EP President.

“What would be the relevance for the UK if somehow the socialists would not support her?

“In an unlikely scenario, the UK-friendly ECR may become Kingmakers and have an influence on who would become EP President.

“Even then, however, the EP President is merely a chairman.

“It may however increase the political influence of the ECR, which just managed to have a new Prime Minister, in the Czech Republic.”

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Mr Sassoli had been president of the 705-seat parliament since July 2019, with his term in the predominantly ceremonial role due to end this month.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “Sassoli was a symbol of balance, humanity and generosity.

“These qualities have always been recognised by all his colleagues, from every political quarter and every European country.”

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Mr Sassoli’s time in office was dominated by the coronavirus crisis and he was credited with introducing a remote voting system that allowed the parliament to keep operating even as much of Europe was forced into repeated lockdowns.

He contracted legionella pneumonia in September and returned to hospital in December after suffering complications related to his immune system.

He had undergone a bone marrow transplant 10 years ago and he died in a cancer clinic in the northeastern town of Aviano.

Flags at EU institutions were lowered to half-mast as praise for Mr Sassoli poured in from across the political spectrum.

European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen, a conservative who secured Mr Sassoli’s backing within the EU Parliament despite coming from different camps, said she had lost a dear friend.

She said: “Today is a sad day for Europe. 

Our union loses a passionate European, a sincere democrat and a good man.

“He wanted Europe to be more united, closer to its people, more faithful to our values. That’s his legacy.”

In his inaugural speech, Mr Sassoli had urged Europeans to counter the “virus” of extreme nationalism and called for a reform of EU rules on migration and political asylum.

He had been unable to chair the Strasbourg-based parliament recently and missed the European Commission’s annual state of the union event in September.

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