DAVID Cameron's woes on Europe have intensified after two Cabinet ministers publicly declared they would vote in favour of Britain leaving the European Union on the basis of its present relationship with Brussels.

Michael Gove, the Coalition's Education Secretary was the first to insist he would want Britain to withdraw if there were a referendum today, saying: "Life outside would be perfectly tolerable; we could contemplate it."

He made clear he still thought the best course was to follow the Prime Minister's strategy to renegotiate powers with Brussels, to lead the change Europe needed and then have an in-out referendum.

Later, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, asked about his position, said: "If the choice is between a European Union written exactly as it is today and not being a part of that, then I have to say that I'm on the side of the argument that Michael Gove has put forward."

He added: "We have to negotiate a solution that works better for Britain if we are going to stay in."

Their remarks were seized upon by Fiona Hyslop, the SNP Government's Secretary for Europe, who said the anti-European rhetoric from Conservative Coalition ministers risked causing serious harm to Scotland's interests.

"Westminster cannot properly represent Scotland's interests in Europe when front-bench ministers are telling the rest of the world they'd rather not be in Europe at all."

She added: "Remaining in the UK means Scotland's position in Europe will continue to be jeopardised by a Westminster system more concerned with playing the anti-Europe card than with protecting our national interest."

The views of Mr Gove and Mr Hammond follow those of ex-Chancellor Lord Lawson and ex-Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, both of whom called for withdrawal, former Chancellor Lord Lamont, who suggested one last try at renegotiation, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who, while backing the PM's approach, said withdrawal would not be "cataclysmic" for Britain.

Both Cabinet ministers sought to play down talk of civil war among Tory MPs because of the planned rebel amendment, expressing regret at the lack of an EU referendum pledge in the Queen's Speech,

While backbenchers are to have a free vote on the issue, ministers will abstain; the PM will still be on his trip to America. Because Labour and the Liberal Democrats are opposed, the amendment will almost certainly be defeated.

For Labour, Ed Balls expressed disbelief at the Conservatives' actions. But while the Shadow Chancellor reiterated the position that Labour was against a referendum now, he said Labour would not "set our face against consulting the British people" later on.