Germany has successfully "colonised" the European Commission enabling it to shape the direction of the European Union, Vince Cable has warned.
The business secretary told Lib Dem activists on Tuesday evening that Britain was "horribly underrepresented" within the Brussels bureaucracy. He said this was because young multi-lingual British graduates did not want to begin a career in Europe given the uncertainty over how long the UK would remain a member state.
Cable, an ardent pro-European, told a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow that too many EU directives were created without "any British input" as "the British are not there".
"It's German dominated. The germans have systemically gone out to colonise large chunks of the European Commission," he said.
David Cameron has promised to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership should he be prime minister after the 2015 election. The Lib Dem leadership has softened its opposition to the Tory plan, in the belief it would be able to extract a high price from Cameron in any future coalition negotiations.
However Cable told another conference meeting earlier in the week that he did not want to see a referendum happen. "The kind of referendum the Tories want is just not on offer as far as we are concerned," he said. And Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem Scotland secretary, said an in/out vote "will not arise" as the Tories would not win a majority.