EU in crisis: Dump commissioners, says Hague

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WILLIAM HAGUE will today demand that all 20 members of the European Commission should lose their jobs permanently after the scathing inquiry revealing fraud and mismanagement in Brussels.

The Tory leader will raise the stakes in his battle with Tony Blair over the EU crisis by saying that none of the existing commissioners should be reappointed after a new Commission president has been found to succeed Jacques Santer.

Although all 20 Commission members resigned after Monday's inquiry report, a majority of them are expected to be reinstated. Mr Blair has called for Sir Leon Brittan and Neil Kinnock, Britain's commissioners, to get their jobs back.

At the Welsh Conservatives' conference in Cardiff, Mr Hague will say: "We need a total clear-out of the existing European commissioners."

Mr Hague said it was "totally outrageous and indefensible" that those commissioners resigning in disgrace could receive severance packages worth up to pounds 300,000. He said Mr Blair must not back down after calling for the payments to be blocked.

Downing Street conceded yesterday that it was not aware of the provisions in the commissioners' contracts, but stuck to Mr Blair's demand. "A lot of people would find it staggering that these kinds of pay-offs are being bandied about, given the circumstances in which they will leave," said his spokesman.

Mr Hague said Parliament should be allowed to approve the Prime Minister's choice of Britain's representatives in Brussels. But the Tory leader faced accusations of "double standards" from his own MPs at a private meeting on Wednesday for not consulting them before he proposed that Sir Alastair Goodlad, the party's former chief whip, succeed Sir Leon in January. Some MPs wanted Mr Hague to nominate Chris Patten, the former Tory chairman.