Federalist warning to Euro candidates

WOULD-BE Tory candidates for next year's European Parliament elections must stick to a strictly anti-federalist stance or risk being deselected, Michael Portillo, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, made clear yesterday, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Mr Portillo's confirmation that a non-federal Europe would be the centrepiece of the Conservative manifesto reinforces the claims of the right to have won the argument over the future direction of the EC once - assuming a go-ahead from the German constitutional court tomorrow - the Maastricht treaty comes into effect.

It came as Emma Nicholson MP, a staunch Major loyalist throughout the revolts on the Maastricht Bill, disclosed that she is seeking selection as the candidate for the Devon Euro constituency.

Ms Nicholson would offer to step down from her Devon West & Torridge constituency at the next election if she is selected from more than 100 applicants and wins the European contest. Her Westminster seat is under threat from the Liberal Democrats.

She epitomises the approach recognised by even the most Euro- sceptical of ministers, such as Mr Portillo, that socialist MEPs are still in the ascendant and that failing to adopt a more positive approach to the Community risks yet more isolation for Tory Britain.

Ms Nicholson said: 'Our parliamentary system in Westminster can do very little without considering the other half of the argument.

'I would very much like to be there, arguing for Britain on that side of the fence, looking at the legislation as it affects Britain.'

Ms Nicholson was a strong critic of anti-Maastricht Tory backbenchers who voted against the Government last session.