Germans warn Britain on EU
Germany has warned MPs in Britain against exiting the EU, accusing it of "blackmail" against European countries.
A delegation of German parliamentarians told MPs that a British exit would be a disaster.
Labour seized on the row this evening, saying that David Cameron was more interested in keeping his party together than reflecting Britain's best interests in Europe.
"These warnings from Britain’s allies come within a few hours of leading British business people joining the growing chorus of concern about David Cameron’s approach to Europe," Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said.
But Nick Clegg insisted today that he has no qualms about the Government holding a referendum on the UK's EU status.
The Deputy Prime Minister told a press lunch: "I'm certainly not afraid of a referendum."
He also appeared to back a senior US diplomat who said the UK’s interests were best served by staying in the EU.
"I think whatever question you put in any eventual referendum, the underlying question is the same," Mr Clegg said. “Do we lead or do we hang back in a sort of subsidiary status? I think not only ourselves but the Americans and others say ‘look, you are a big nation, you have big horizons’."
Mr Clegg added: ""I think what the Americans are saying is 'Act big, don't act small."
A Downing Street spokesman said today that the US "wants an outward looking EU with Britain in it, and so do we".
The chair of Germany's European affairs committee, Gunther Krichbaum, said: "There is certainly a risk that [a referendum] could paralyse efforts for a better Europe and deeper integration. Britain would risk being isolated. That cannot be in Britain's interests."
Also at today's lunch, Mr Clegg said that former energy secretary Chris Huhne could return to the Cabinet if he is cleared of asking his wife to take speeding points on his behalf.
Asked if he would like to see a return to government for Mr Huhne, the Lib Dem leader replied: “Yeah I would like to see Chris [back]... I want to see him at the top table of British politics.” Mr Clegg confirmed he meant a return to the Cabinet.
Mr Clegg also said that he will "certainly be leading the party in 2015”, but added that the continuing austerity would make the next election "quite sombre [and] quite gritty".
He added that the next election is "the first fully blown scarcity election" and warned parties promising not to touch pensioner benefits will be "found out".