The minister without portfolio – whatever that means – said that talk of Britain leaving the EU is ‘damaging our influence’ as a country, and said that he doesn’t believe David Cameron is trying to pull out of the union.
Speaking on BBC’s Today Programme on Radio 4, he said: ‘We are going through a very curious stage in the national debate. In the last 20 years, the country gets near to having a nervous breakdown on the subject every now and again. David Cameron assures the public, he’s always assured me, that he believes, as I do, that Britain’s place in the modern world has got to be in the EU.’
He added: ‘It would be a disaster for our influence in global political events. It would be a disaster for the British economy if we were to leave the EU. It damages our influence in these great critical events of the moment if we keep casting doubt on our continued membership.’
Ken Clarke has long been an arch EU-supporter, but did concede that the PM’s pledge to achieve a freeze in the EU budget would constitute ‘a good starting point’ for the next round of negotiations in Brussels.