David Cameron has been branded "insane" for pledging to stay in the European Union regardless of how well his attempts to claw back powers from Brussels go.
Lord Digby Jones, former trade minister under Gordon Brown, said: "The tactic of promising to stay in the EU regardless of what the Prime Minister can negotiate is insane. When did anyone start negotiations with 'It’s OK, we don’t mean it, we will do what you want anyway' as an opening gambit?"
Writing in the Times, the peer warned that the Prime Minister was unlikely to get anything beyond minor changes to Britain's relationship with the European Union, writing: ""the chances of certain big countries changing things is nil".
Lord Jones of Birmingham insisted that the UK should be ready to leave the political bloc, calling for it to be put "on the negotiating table". This comes as research suggested that 3,580 new EU rules have come in under David Cameron's premiership and that EU rules cost £27.4 billion a year.
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Lord Jones' intervention comes as MPs prepare to vote on a bill to legislate for an EU referendum by 2017 on Friday. However, there are fears that the bill could be scuppered by an amendment proposed by Tory backbencher Adam Afriyie, who is pushing for the referendum to be brought forward to 2014.
The peer, who used to be head of the Confederation of British Industry trade body, branded the group "deluded" for insisting that major reforms could still be possible.
CBI director-general John Cridland said: "The EU isn't perfect and there is a growing unease about the creeping extension of EU authority. Europe has to become more open, competitive and outward-looking if we are to grow and create opportunities and jobs for all our citizens.