A senior Tory MEP has defected to the Liberal Democrats over David Cameron's stance on Europe.
Edward McMillan-Scott, once leader of the Conservative MEP faction in the European Parliament, rebelled against his leader's decision to break away from the centre-right European People's Party in Europe, arguing that he wanted to forge a more eurosceptic faction in Strasbourg.
After months of wrangling and a disciplinary hearing, Mr McMillan-Scott made the surprise announcement this afternoon that his days as a Tory were over.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he was "delighted" to welcome a respected Tory into the fold.
Mr McMillan-Scott was expelled from the Tories six months ago - the culmination of a dispute over the decision to set up an anti-EU political group in the European Parliament alongside a Polish eurosceptic.
Mr McMillan-Scott had defied the party by challenging Polish MEP Michal Kaminski for a key role as one of the European Parliament's Vice-Presidents.
Mr McMillan-Scott won, infuriating Mr Cameron and forcing the Tories to appease Mr Kaminski by offering him chairmanship of the new "European Conservatives and Reformists" group in Strasbourg.
The Tory whip was removed from Mr McMillan-Scott, who subsequently lost an appeal against his treatment.
Despite having insisted he would carry on as an independent Tory after decades with the party, he said today:
"My reasons for joining the Liberal Democrats are that in Nick Clegg they have a leader whom I like, admire and respect. They are internationalists, not nationalists. They are committed to politics based on the values of fairness and change.
"From being a liberal Conservative I become a conservative Liberal. Most of my family are liberals: I am pleased to join the Liberal family."