Angry Tory MEPs may resign whip

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UP TO five Conservative Euro-MPs have warned they will leave the Tory party and sit as independents because they are angered by William Hague's decision to ballot party members on the single currency, writes Marie Woolf.

The leader of the Conservative MEPs, Edward McMillan-Scott, worried by the prospect of a mass defection, last week approached the chairman of the centre-right political group in which the Conservative Party sits, to seek his advice.

He wanted to see what would happen if his members left the Conservative Party but asked to remain independent members of the centre-right European People's Party. "I had heard the rumours that some MEPs wanted to leave," said Mr McMillan-Scott. "I would oppose anybody leaving. Anybody who is elected as a parliamentarian of a party has to think very carefully about taking such as serious step."

He said that Mr Wilfried Martens (chairman of the EPP) would not favour the conservatives remaining in the European party if they resigned the Tory whip but that it could be put to a vote.

Among those believed to be considering resigning the Tory whip are James Moorhouse, Brendan Donnelly and John Stevens.