Prime Minister David Cameron has been dealt another hammer blow on Europe with a senior minister saying he would vote on an EU exit if given the chance.
The turmoil within the Tories on the EU showed no signs of going away after Education Secretary Michael Gove said he would vote for Britain to leave the EU if there was a referendum today.
Speaking on the BBC's 'Andrew Marr show' yesterday, he also revealed he would abstain from the Commons vote on an EU referendum this week.
The cabinet minister told the BBC: "Although we absolutely need to have a referendum in the future, it's not appropriate at this stage."
He added that were a referendum to take place now, he would vote to leave the EU, saying: "The current situation is no good and life outside (the EU) would be perfectly tolerable."
The Education Secretary is the most senior Conservative to publicly say he would back Britain's exit from the EU, although this was widely rumoured to be his position.
Mr Gove's comments came as Eurosceptic Tory ministers were advised to abstain in a Commons vote on the failure to introduce legislation guaranteeing a referendum on the UK's EU membership.
Downing Street indicated that Mr Cameron was "relaxed" about the idea of Tory MPs formally attacking his government's own queen's speech in the Commons division lobbies
Conservative unrest over the European issue has been inflamed by the electoral success of the anti-EU UK Independence Party and Tory grandees advocating withdrawal.
Nadine Dorries called for a formal deal with Nigel Farage's party at the 2015 general election including joint candidates.
She spoke out just days after she had the Conservative whip restored after apologising for taking part without permission in ITV gameshow 'I'm A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!'
The MP -- a consistent and vocal critic of Mr Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne -- was brought back into the fold amid suggestions she was poised to join Nigel Farage's party.
"Smart Conservative MPs should begin to sound out their local association and begin to have the conversation 'there may need to be three of us in this marriage' and moot the possibility of Conservative MPs being elected with a double endorsement," she wrote yesterday.
"Very many of us in the Conservative Party would much rather be in bed with UKIP than the Liberal Democrats and I know who I would choose between Clegg and Farage as Deputy Prime Minister." (© Independent News Service)