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Lib Dem attacks Tories' EU allies

A Liberal Democrat Foreign Office minister has branded the Tories' European allies "quite nutty" and "an embarrassment".

Jeremy Browne also told an undercover reporter from The Daily Telegraph that he believed the Conservatives' immigration policy is "very harsh" and driven by "quite a lot of uncharitable instincts".

Mr Browne is the latest Lib Dem minister to be caught by Telegraph reporters making disparaging remarks about their Conservative allies, underlining the tensions in the coalition.

Last year, the Conservatives broke away from the main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament to join the European Conservatives and Reformists - a coalition of small nationalist parties, some whom have faced accusations of anti-Semitism.

Mr Browne told the reporter, who was posing as a constituent in his Taunton Deane consistency: "They are quite nutty and that's an embarrassment to them."

He also attacked the Tories' approach to immigration, although he insisted that the Lib Dems are having a moderating effect on the Government's policy.

"The Tories had a very harsh, in my view, immigration policy. That's not to say I think that there shouldn't be, you know, a level of immigration which can't be assimilated in society - I'm not in favour of letting rip and letting everyone in - I think we need to have a proper, functioning policy," he said.

"But the Conservative one I thought was driven by quite a lot of uncharitable instincts. I think with the involvement of the Lib Dems plus the more liberal-minded Tories we'll end up with a policy which is more enlightened."

Earlier, Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was the first minister to have his comments reported by the Telegraph, strongly criticised the newspaper's methods, saying they risk undermining trust between MPs and their constituents.

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