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Liberals rebuff Italy's 5-Star request to join them in EU parliament

Guy Verhofstadt arrives at the Conference of Presidents of European Parliament's party blocs in Brussels, Belgium, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The group of Liberals in the European Parliament rebuffed a request from Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement to join them after they split with the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP), the Liberals’ leader said on Monday.

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE, said there was “insufficient common ground” to accept 5-Star’s request.

“There remain fundamental differences on key European issues,” he said in a statement, adding that the parties would continue working together on issues of shared interest such as the environment, transparency and direct democracy.

Italian comedian-turned politician Beppe Grillo, founder of the 5-Star, proposed splitting with UKIP on Sunday and its members backed the idea in a vote on Monday.

5-Star, Italy’s main opposition party, rejects traditional left-right ideological labels and so has no natural home among the main political families in the European Parliament.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti