José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has been roundly condemned for suggesting that Britain´s position in global affairs would be reduced if it left the European Union.
"From a European perspective, I find it a little bit ironic that some people are suggesting for Britain a role comparable to that of, say, Norway or Switzerland," he said.
"The fact that some are suggesting for Britain a role that is smaller than the one Britain already has today seems to me a little bit curious."
He said, for example, that when David Cameron meets US President Barack Obama he has "much stronger leverage because everybody knows that Britain is a country that is very influential in the shaping of Europe."
Mr Barroso´s comments in an interview come in the wake of Mr Cameron saying recently that there could be an "in-out" referendum on Europe in the future.
But Martin Callanan, leader of the European Conservatives in the European Parliament, rubbished Mr Barroso´s comments.
"It's very comforting that Barroso worries so much about Britain's place in the world. I think our own government and parliament have a better idea than he does about how to deliver it," he said.
"It is precisely because Britain is such an internationalist country that it does not wish to become just another state in a federal Europe. Britain has its own ties and relationships with the rest of the world. Barroso has become so blinkered about his European project that the idea of a large country standing on its own two feet eludes him."
"Britain can have a much looser relationship with the EU and still extend its influence in the world. When Cameron visits Washington, he does so as the leader of the USA's most reliable partner and longest-standing international ally, not as just another EU leader."
Ukip leader Nigel Farage said, "Barroso's comments are delusional and unthinking but typical of the born Eurocrat. He seems to think that Britain is incapable of speaking for itself in the world and is, in some way, enhanced by having one seat out of 27 in Brussels. He is wrong. Britain is a sovereign country and can flourish alone as a democratic, freethinking and trading nation. We would be able to make the trade deals that suit us, set our own laws and control our own borders – free from the technocratic meddling of him and his type.
"Barroso's words are those of fear, not hope. In this country we must strive for a future where we are not shackled to a failed, corrupt EU with its doomed currency and unelected Eurocrats in charge."----
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