I can't live, if living is without EU. Photo: Getty
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Ukip's European Parliament group has collapsed: what does this mean?

Why the collapse of Ukip's EU political group is good news for the UK and Europe.

It was not quite the political earthquake Nigel Farage was hoping for. Yesterday Ukip's group in the European Parliament collapsed after the departure of Latvian MEP Iveta Grigule, which left it bereft of the minimum seven countries needed to qualify as an official parliamentary grouping.

This will not just mean a loss of status. It will result in a major blow to the party's influence, with the loss of millions of euros worth of official funding for support staff and communications, and significantly less legislative influence - although given Ukip's lack of attendance the latter point is rather a moot one. In a personal setback for Nigel Farage, the loss of group status will also mean he will no longer be able to make his long leader's speeches at the European Parliament's monthly sessions in Strasbourg, which he routinely used as a soapbox to insult European leaders and undermine Britain's image abroad.

Given the fact that Ukip's very raison-d'etre is antipathy towards European cooperation, it's perhaps not altogether surprising that its group in the European Parliament has fallen apart. But we should remember that not long ago pundits were predicting that eurosceptic and far-right parties would dominate the new parliament. Many feared that a new alliance of populist and anti-European MEPs could lead to legislative gridlock and block progress on vital EU reforms. As it happens, the MEP group Nigel Farage cobbled together is the shortest-lived in history, narrowly beating the far-right ITS group formed in 2007 by Mussolini's granddaughter.

Ukip's marriage of convenience with MEPs from Italian comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, which was already beginning to fray due to fundamental differences on issues like the environment, now looks unlikely to continue. If he wants to try and resurrect his group, Farage may well have to turn to more extremist allies such as Marine Le Pen's French National Front, who he has already vowed not to get into bed with, and Geert Wilders' Dutch Party for Freedom, whose attempt at forming a far-right grouping failed earlier this year. Far from dominating the European Parliament, it seems that anti-EU parties are more divided than ever.

This should be welcomed by those us who believe in the principle of European cooperation and want to rebuild public faith in the EU. From Ebola through to Ukraine and Islamic State, it's clear that the big challenges facing Britain today are shared by our European neighbours and that we need to work together to address them. Ukip have built support on the back of disillusionment with the current political system, but while they are good at criticising they don't offer a credible alternative. They want to go back to an imaginary past when we need to move forward, radically change and improve the EU and allow it to unleash its full potential.

Across European capitals there is now widespread appetite for substantial changes to the EU to ensure it is more focused on the big issues where it adds real value, such as unleashing economic growth, protecting the environment and fighting organised crime. It is significant that the new European Commission, set to be voted on by MEPs next week in Strasbourg, will include a Vice-President for Better Regulation who will oversee all European legislation to make sure it's fit for purpose. Lord Hill, the UK's next Commissioner, has been put in charge of creating a banking union that will create huge opportunities for the British financial sector - tellingly, Ukip MEPs failed to turn up to a crucial vote on whether to approve him. Moreover, ambitious proposals are on the table to build a single market in energy and the digital sector and help kick-start growth across the EU. We need MEPs who will contribute to this process of reform, not seek to obstruct it. That is why the demise of Ukip's group is both good news for the UK and Europe as a whole.

Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP

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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland