Rewhipped rebel deals new blow to unity

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John Major's hopes of restoring Tory party unity were dealt a blow last night after a recently readmitted backbench Euro-rebel called for withdrawal from the European Union, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Christopher Gill, MP for Ludlow and one of the nine rebels offered back the party whip on Monday, said in a speech to the Anti-Common Market League at Westminister that he could envisage Britain leaving the Union, and urged "disentanglement from everything European, save the marketplace".

The outburst follows Mr Gill's refusal on Monday to give any undertaking that he would moderate his views on Europe.

The rebuff to the Prime Minister came in the wake of a public display of friction on the airwaves between Elizabeth Guigou, the federalist former French minister for Europe, and Theresa Gorman, the formerly whipless MP for Billericay. In a BBC Radio 4 World at One three- way interview, Mrs Gorman had been contrasting Britain's position as an island with the Continent, where countries had often invaded each other, when a clearly exasperated Mme Guigou interjected: "You cannot be in and out. Goodbye," and put down the telephone.