Owen Paterson
Owen Paterson said a future government should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon TreatyGetty

The UK should leave the European Union (EU) and secure a free trade deal, according to former cabinet minister Owen Paterson.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Business for Britain pressure group, he said a future government should invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would force other countries to negotiate terms for exit from the EU.

The former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs urged David Cameron to include the pledge in the Conservatives' next general election manifesto for next may.

"I would like to see our government brought back within the control of our own Parliament," Paterson said.

"Ministers should be properly accountable to parliament for all aspects of government.

"This would give the British people the ability to remove their real rulers by voting. Our politics would be reinvigorated.

"I find it extraordinary that many in our establishment mock this prospect. As a nation we are second to none in so many spheres of human activity.

"Our universities, scientific research, medicine, arts, music, literature and sports lead the world. Why do we doubt our ability to represent ourselves on the world stage?"

The North Shropshire MP said the aim of the negotiation should be to ensure Britain withdraws from the political aspects of the EU and retains only a free trade arrangement with its continental neighbours.

Paterson also said the euro currency has tuned much of Europe into an "unhappy land of semi-permanent recession".

"We have now come to the fork in the road. The Eurozone has to become, in effect, a new country to make a full redistributive federal state where there are legitimate means of transferring funds from the wealth creating areas such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg or Noord-Brabant to places like Andalucía, the Mezzogiorno and the Peloponnese, where it is simply not possible to create wealth at the rate at which their countries joined the euro," the Conservative MP said.

"In short, it is not so much that we are leaving the EU, as much as the political project of the EU has left us."

But Paterson ruled out following in the footsteps of Conservative defectors Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell by claiming the Conservatives is the only party that can "deliver a positive future from Europe".

Cameron has promised a Conservative government would offer an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU in 2017.