THE SNP is set for unprecedented influence over the future shape of the EU with the party’s most senior MEP poised to become leader of a key group in the European Parliament.

Alyn Smith is expected to be confirmed tomorrow as the President of the European Free Alliance (EFA) group, which sits with the Greens in the parliament.

The Greens-EFA is on course to be one of two political groups which will hold the balance of power in the parliament after a 40-year-old alliance between the centre-right European People’s Party and Socialists and Democrats lost its majority in the elections.

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As such it will have a significant input on the EU’s political direction and over who succeeds Jean Claud Juncker as European Commission President.

Smith is among the longest-serving MEPs in the EFA group and threw his hat into the ring for its leadership in Belgium last week. No other candidate has put his or her name forward. The position is initially for two and a half years and can be extended for the course of the five-year term.

It is understood Smith already has the support of four of the eight members of the EFA group with the position decided tomorrow. The president of EFA group automatically becomes vice-president of Greens-EFA.

Smith’s expected appointment comes as the UK is due to leave the EU before 31 October following extensions given by the EU to the original Brexit day of March 29.

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However, backing Smith for leader suggests MEPs in the group, which includes Smith’s two SNP colleagues as well as politicians from Corsica, Latvia, Catalonia and Wales, suspect the UK will not meet the new Brexit deadline or even a subsequent one.

“Having been here for 15 years, I confirm I will put my self forward for president of the group, to continue your good work and to make a commitment to stopping Brexit,” he told the EFA meeting.

He later told The National: “This is me making a commitment to the group, but it is also the group making a commitment to us. It is a commitment to me personally, in terms of ‘we want to see you here’ but also in terms of ‘we want Scotland to stay’. What better way to underline that than by making a Scottish MEP president of the EFA group.”

Regarding the potential influence the Greens/EFA group, Smith said: “The arithmetic is still forming, the groups are still forming, winning people, losing people. There are a couple of seats which haven’t been allocated. Belgium is still working stuff out as are Spain and Ireland, but it is looking increasingly clear that EFA-Greens are going to have the balance of power.”

The Greens-EFA will have a significant say in who takes up the leadership of the European institutions – including Juncker’s successor as European Commission president – and, as a consequence, shape the EU’s political direction until 2024.

The National: European Commission president, Jean Claude Juncker European Commission president, Jean Claude Juncker

Among the possible contenders for the top post are Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party (EPP), Hans Timmermans, for the Socialists/Democrats and Michel Barnier, the high-profile chief Brexit negotiator. Barnier is said to be favoured by French president Emmanuel Macron.

Each new president is nominated by the nation states in the European Council and elected by the European Parliament for a five-year term.

Smith said he would be pressing the candidates on Brexit and Scotland’s place in Europe.

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“I will be asking them to clarify their own view on what Scotland’s position is and should be. I know they want Scotland and the UK to stay, but I’ll be saying ‘let’s have that on the record,’” he said.

“We will work out what questions we want to ask depending on who the candidates actually are. But from my position it will be ‘I might support you, but what are you offering Scotland?’”

Smith added: “President Donald Tusk in the European Council has been very vocal, very clear that he hopes the UK will change its mind, President Juncker in the Commission less so. So if we had clearer expressions of regret about Brexit – such as of course the UK can change its mind – that would be helpful. Because I think we can change the weather on Brexit and get a different solution.

“The candidates have all to various extents said if the UK changes its mind Brexit doesn’t need to happen. But some have been more enthusiastic in that than others. We will tease this issues out and that will be part of the process [in electing the next EU Commission President].”

Smith’s selection as president would not be unprecedented, with SNP MEP Ian Hudgton has previously served as EFA group president.

However, due to the parliamentary make-up, with the European People’s Party and Socialists/Democrats having a majority, the Greens/EFA had less influence than they are set to have in the new, more fragmented 2019-24 parliament.