Rebels to campaign for euro group

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THE TWO Tory Euro MPs who were last week ejected from the Conservative party, and then reinstated, over their pro-European views are set to embarrass the Hague leadership further, writes Marie Woolf.

Brendan Donnelly, MEP for Sussex South and Crawley, and John Stevens, MEP for Thames Valley, are setting up a pro-European Conservative lobby group, the Conservative European Alliance, to campaign for joining the euro. They plan a series of opinion polls which may exacerbate Tory divisions on Europe.

Mr Stevens, a wealthy former banker, will bankroll the group. The pair also plans to campaign with Labour and the Liberal Democrats if there is a referendum on whether to sign up to the single currency.

The two Tory MEPs were effectively expelled from the Conservative party during last week's conference after they commissioned an opinion poll to gauge support for a breakaway pro-European Conservative party led by Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke. The leadership feared they were planning to resign from the party and stand as independents. The poll, conducted by MORI, found that such a party would gain 10 per cent of the vote compared with 16 per cent for William Hague's Tories.

But within 24 hours the two men were reinstated by Lord Parkinson, Conservative party chairman, after a joint statement was agreed confirming that the MEPs would not have to sign up to Hague's anti-euro stance.