British exit from the European Union is "not an option", a Conservative business spokesman has said.
David Cameron has promised to hold an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union in 2017 should the Conservatives win the next general election. The prime minister is pinning his hopes on wrestling powers back from Brussels and then persuading British voters that it is in their interests for the country to remain a member.
However Lord Popat, a Tory Whip who speaks for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the Lords, suggested on Wednesday that there was no chance that the UK could leave the EU.
He said: "We need the EU for trade and the EU needs us, so exit is not an option. What is important is we renegotiate some of the reforms in the EU to make it more practical in terms of business and productivity."
By contrast several senior Tories have indicated that unless the EU is reformed exit would not only be very much on their cards, but their preference.
Philip Hammond, the new foreign secretary, told the BBC on Sunday that if there was no change at all in the way Europe is governed then it was "not a Europe that can work for us".
Popat, a self-made millionaire and major Tory donor, was made a peer by David Cameron in 2010.