The Europe leader of the Alleanza Nazionale, successor party to Mussolini's fascists, told The Independent she believed the Conservatives would join them in a new coalition in Strasbourg. Christiana Muscardini MEP said she had had talks in London with Tory MPs who want to break away from "federalist" Christian Democrats in the parliament. Gianfranco Fini, her party president, also attended the talks.
The Conservatives would team up with the French Gaullists, the late Sir James Goldsmith's French anti-federalist party, the Alleanza Nazionale, Portuguese MEPs and others to form their own group in Strasbourg.
Tory sources said William Hague is understood to be sympathetic but is keen to avert a dispute with his pro-European MEPs. He will wait for results of the poll before assessing the move. The disclosure will be seized on by Labour as proof that the Tories have become the "extremist party" on Europe.
The Eurosceptics' calls for a break with the Christian Democrats will be boosted today when several moderate French and German MEPs formally endorse the breakaway Pro-Euro Conservative party.
The move is driven by Tory Eurosceptics determined to end their party's affiliation with the European People's Party (EPP), the second-largest group in Brussels after the Socialists. The EPP, made up of Christian Democrat MEPs from across the continent, backs the single currency, tax harmonisation and faster political integration.
Ms Muscardini, who said the EPP link had left the Tories "in a condition of submission that favours the Germans", said she had had private meetings with the MPs to discuss the alliance. "We hope to make an assembly with the English Conservatives. Links between us are very strong: we share the same moral motivation to create a better Europe. I think we will be an alliance."
An Alleanza Nazionale aide said: "It is an ongoing thing. There is nothing official but the reciprocal interest on the part of the Tories is very big. We are bound to silence until after the elections." Edward Macmillan- Scott, the Tory MEP leader, has said he believes the Conservatives will retain their association with the EPP. But the links to the pro-Euro group have embarrassed Mr Hague. Many figures in the party, as well as Eurosceptic MEP candidates, are pushing to sever links after the election.
A Central Office source said the Tories could not "seriously" continue their alliance with the EPP after campaigning so hard against federalism. "Decisions ... will have to be made within days of the election, if not on the day of the election," he said. "Most MEPs are pro-euro, but there's a hell of a lot of people in the party as a whole who want nothing to do with the EPP. At the end of the day it's up to William."
Cosy arrangement, page 6