Rebel EU lawmaker threatens UK Conservatives

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A senior member of the European parliament is threatening to sue the Conservatives after being expelled from the party, giving leader David Cameron a headache ahead of an election he is expected to win.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron speaks during a visit to Prince's Trust charity offices in central London January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

European Parliament vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott, who was expelled last year after running for his high-profile EU post against the wishes of party leaders, lost an appeal against the expulsion last week and is now considering legal action.

“I have been informed in the last few days that an appeal panel has upheld my expulsion which leaves me with two courses of action,” McMillan-Scott told journalists on Thursday.

“The first is that I am taking counsel and considering a (British) high court challenge... The second is that I have asked the legal department at the European Parliament to look into this matter and I may take legal action at this level.”

The threat of legal action by McMillan-Scott, who currently sits in the EU assembly as a non-attached member, could reignite division among Conservatives unhappy at Cameron’s decision to take them out of the largely federalist European People’s Party (EPP) and concerned about the political leanings of some eurosceptic MEPs with whom they now sit.

Analysts say leaving the EPP -- home to the ruling parties of Germany, France and Italy -- could leave Cameron isolated in Europe and undermine Britain’s foreign policy efforts if the Conservatives win this year’s election as widely expected.

“David Cameron risks leading the most eurosceptic government ever to take office in one of the EU’s largest and most powerful countries,” McMillan-Scott said.

McMillan-Scott -- a former leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament -- ran against Polish right-wing candidate Michal Tomasz Kaminski and against the odds won re-election as vice-president.

His decision angered the British Conservative MEPs, who had been told by the party to back the Polish candidate as part of a deal with their eurosceptic partners in the 55-member strong European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR).

The ECR was formed after Cameron promised to take his party out of the powerful pro-integration European People’s Party, the largest political group in the EU assembly.

McMillan-Scott opposed Kaminski, alleging that the close aide of Poland’s right-wing president Lech Kaczynski “had anti-semitic, homophobic and racist links.”

“I am not seeking to rejoin the EPP as yet, but I have told them that I wish to walk alongside,” McMillan-Scott said.

“I have concerns with some MEPs in the ECR group and will not sit alongside them. I have expressed to David Cameron that I support his policies on Europe, but I will not sit in the ECR as long as these members are there. But I am committed to the Conservative Party.”

Editing by Keith Weir and Elizabeth Fullerton