Eurosceptic MEP has Tory whip restored

Roger Helmer MEP has the Conservative whip in Europe restored
Roger Helmer MEP has the Conservative whip in Europe restored

A Conservative MEP expelled from the party for supporting an attack on the European Commission president has today been welcomed back into the fold.

Roger Helmer said he was "delighted that this difficult period can be put behind us" and thanked the leadership of the Tory delegation in Brussels for making it possible.

The MEP for the east Midlands had the whip withdrawn - meaning he could no longer sit with the delegation or stand as a Tory at the next election - in May last year, following his support for comments from the UK Independence party (Ukip).

Ukip leader Nigel Farage demanded Jose Manuel Barroso defend himself against allegations of sleaze in front of the European parliament, just days before referendums on the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.

But he was booed by other MEPs and accused of trying to undermine the European Commission's reputation before the critical votes.

Mr Helmer was the only Tory MEP to stand up for Mr Farage during the debate - although four others had signed his motion - and immediately afterwards had the whip withdrawn, effectively expelling him from the party.

But in a memo circulated today, the leader of the Tories in Europe, Timothy Kirkhope, said: "Following his agreement of terms, the Conservative whip in the European parliament has been restored to Roger Helmer MEP with immediate effect."

The party would not explain what these terms were, and David Cameron's office also refused to comment on the return of such a passionate Eurosceptic to his party's fold.

Mr Helmer supports Britain's complete withdrawal from the EU, arguing on that "there is simply no benefit of membership at all, that could not be achieved through a normal treaty between independent nations".

Earlier this year, he also dismissed Mr Cameron's decision to delay to the Tories' withdrawal from the European People's party (EPP), the group they are allied to in Brussels, as "indefensible, humiliating and wrong".

Responding to news today, Europe minister Geoff Hoon warned Mr Helmer's return proved that the Conservatives had not really changed under their new leader.

"David Cameron is quietly welcoming back into his party a man who is committed to taking Britain out of the European Union," he said.

"Once again it shows that David Cameron's rhetoric does not match his substance. For all the new gloss, this is another reminder that the Tories haven't changed and that they remain committed to isolation in Europe."

Mr Cameron has previously argued in favour of an open Europe, in which there was free trade but fewer political and social ties. His decision to withdraw the Tories from the EPP was seen as an attempt to pacify the more Eurosceptic members of his party.


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