MPs calling for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union have been dismissed by Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, as “a few extreme nationalist politicians”.
Mr Clarke said there was little public appetite for an in-out vote and insisted voters are not as deeply eurosceptic as critics of Brussels suggest.
Tory backbenchers have been increasing pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to promise a referendum in a bid to blunt the challenge of the UK Independence Party.
Dozens have signed up to the People’s Pledge campaign, which is staging votes around the country to gauge support - with the first showing 89.9 per cent in favour.
But Mr Clarke, among the most pro-European Tories, insisted it was a “ridiculous” idea that would do nothing the end the complaints of “frenzied” eurosceptics.