Nick Clegg warns European veto 'bad for Britain'


Nick Clegg says he is 'bitterly disappointed' by Mr Cameron's veto

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says David Cameron's veto of EU treaty changes was "bad for Britain" and could leave it "isolated and marginalised".

But he blamed French and German "intransigence" and pressure from Eurosceptic Conservatives for putting the PM in "a very difficult position".

Initially Mr Clegg said the coalition was united over the use of the veto.

But he told the BBC he had "made it clear" to Mr Cameron it was "untenable" for him to welcome the move.

Sources close to Mr Clegg have told the BBC he "couldn't believe it" when he was told the summit in Brussels had "spectacularly unravelled".

The prime minister blocked changes to the EU's Lisbon Treaty at an EU summit, arguing that the proposed changes were not in the UK's interest.

It now looks likely that all 26 other members of the European Union will agree to a new "accord" setting out tougher budget rules aimed at preventing a repeat of the current eurozone crisis.

'Bitterly disappointed'

As leader of the Liberal Democrats, Mr Clegg is far more pro-European than his Conservative coalition colleagues.

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The deputy prime minister claimed the outcome would have been different if he had been prime minister at the talks as he would not have to worry about Eurosceptic backbenchers”

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He told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme: "I'm bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last week's summit, precisely because I think now there is a danger that the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the European Union.

"I don't think that's good for jobs, in the City or elsewhere, I don't think it's good for growth or for families up and down the country."

He said he would now be doing "everything I can to ensure this setback does not become a permanent divide".

The deputy PM said he had learned of the veto in a phone call from the prime minister at 0400 GMT, shortly before Mr Cameron gave a press conference announcing it publicly.

Asked what his reaction had been, the Lib Dem leader said: "I said this was bad for Britain.

"I made it clear that it was untenable for me to welcome it."

'Unacceptable' demands

The new accord will hold eurozone members to strict budgetary rules including:

  • a cap of 0.5% of GDP on countries' annual structural deficits
  • "automatic consequences" for countries whose public deficit exceeds 3% of GDP
  • a requirement to submit their national budgets to the European Commission, which will have the power to request that they be revised

Mr Cameron has said he was seeking certain "safeguards" from Europe on protection of the single market and the UK's financial services industry.

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Businesses are now desperate to hear a positive statement from Mr Cameron about how the UK's position in the single market can somehow be buttressed”

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But French President Nicolas Sarkozy called those demands "unacceptable".

Mr Clegg said unwillingness to negotiate from France and Germany, combined with "outright antagonism to all things European" from parts of the Conservative Party, had left Mr Cameron in a difficult position.

"He couldn't come back to London empty-handed because self evidently, if he'd done so, he wouldn't have been able to get whatever had been agreed through the House of Commons so all we would have had would have been a delayed crisis."

On Friday, a spokesman for Mr Clegg said he had been "consulted throughout" the 10 hours of unsuccessful negotiations in Brussels - a claim backed up by Foreign Secretary William Hague.

He told the BBC the Lib Dem leader was fully "signed up" to the decision to veto the proposed treaty.

'Better way forward'

Mr Cameron will make a statement in the House of Commons on his decision on Monday - and the Labour leader called on him to use it to "explain why he did something that was so bad for Britain and bad for British jobs".

"He did this because the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party has effectively taken over and that isn't good for the national interest," Ed Miliband said.

"What I say to Liberal Democrats and others is that we will work with anybody who thinks this position cannot stand. We must find a better way forward for Britain."

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Every time the bond markets twitch I can see the finger being pointed at those awful Anglo Saxons in the City of London”

End Quote Nigel Farage UK Independence Party

Mr Hague insisted Britain was "not marginalised", and told Sky News that while "everybody knows" that the Tories and Lib Dems had different views on Europe, the negotiating position taken by Mr Cameron "was agreed in advance" with Mr Clegg's party.

But Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott said his party's Business Secretary Vince Cable had "given a very serious warning last Monday in the cabinet against elevating these financial regulation points into a make or break deal".

Asked about Labour's allegation that Mr Cameron did not genuinely want to reach a deal in Brussels, Lord Oakeshott told the BBC's Politics Show he believed "a walk-out quite suited him".

Mr Cameron and his Chancellor George Osborne have insisted the veto was in part to protect the City of London from excessive intervention by Europe, but Labour and the UK Independence Party have both warned that actually no additional safeguards for it were achieved.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the City was "under very serious threat" of "retribution", adding: "Every time the bond markets twitch I can see the finger being pointed at those awful Anglo Saxons in the City of London."

The BBC's business correspondent Joe Lynam said it was not yet clear whether the City would be better or worse off in the long term.

But he said there was a risk that British banks could be affected by deals done by the remaining 26 EU member states which cannot be blocked as unanimity is no longer required except in the case of taxation.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1632.

    Can someone explain what exactly we have vetoed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1631.

    @ 1556. renard

    Very old drop.

    "Germany, Germany, above all" is the 1st stance of a poem by Hoffmann von Fallersleben. The context makes clear it means NOT "Germany rules the Waves ...äh... World", but Germany is the preference for the singers. Like: "My wife, my wife, above all (others)"! By the way, that doesn't mean to hang your wife under the ceiling either.

    Today the 3rd stance is in use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1630.

    I can't believe this is still being discussed.

    Sarkozy needed the tax take from the City to try and save the euro. There was no guarantee that it would work; the only guarantee is that Britain loses £40bn per annum, for ever

    Cameron's job is Prime Minister of Britain. He is employed to look after Britain. There is a separate democratic (yeah right) process for the EU

    He was right to say no

  • rate this

    Comment number 1629.

    The omly hope Clegg has for future lucrative employment is with the EU (again), its no wonder people believe he has no integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1628.

    1602. "Or am I correct in the Right thinking that these are there votes by default"

    No. Equally, the absence of a vote isn't an endorsement for a pro-EU position.

    Out of those people who do express an opinion on the EU, however, there is a substantial majority against ceding further powers, according to:

    And that's the best you're going to get.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1627.

    Re 1568 Steve. On the contrary, it is you who are implying that Germany has not changed by stating that if it wasn't for the EU we would have been at war again. Peace has reigned because Germany has indeed changed. The current state and set up of the EU is more likely to lead to fiction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1626.

    Rebecca Riot.

    After waiting forever to have any sort of power, do you really think the Lib-Dems are going to throw that away on principles? They'll never get elected ever again in any shape or form after their current performances, an election now would be a land slide Tory victory, don't really think you want that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1625.

    No wonder Labour get votes when some on the HYS will believe any spin they are given"

    And so it seems does the right, despite it's own press..

    "The Treasury statistics show that the UK's net contribution to the EU will increase from £4.1 billion this year to £6.4 billion in 2010/11. "

  • rate this

    Comment number 1624.

    Salmond will be happy because if the so hated torys had signed this treaty its bye bye Scottish independence and Scotland is ruled by Brussels Scotland would at last be part of Rome. Dont know what the Romans will think of that though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1623.

    Will Clegg now do the honourable thing and resign on a point of principle?
    Of course he will not,he rather likes the sniff of leather in the Ministerial limo.This man sold his party and his voters down the river.Priniciples,he gave them away for a sniff of power

  • rate this

    Comment number 1622.

    Sad day for Britain. No leadership from the PM and it looks like a lot of the financial institutions and Asian manufactories will be leaving an isolated little island. Oh and the general public have again shown how naive they are. Stop voting for the 1%. If you want a job start learning German.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1621.

    I am still at a lost to understand what catastrophic economic consequences the UK will have leaving the EU.
    At the moment we have approx £30bn trade deficit with the EU a year (half of that with Geramny) and a net cost of membership of approx £28bn a year (all government quoted figures.
    Based on this, the EU needs us far more than we need them, and would appear to have just cut its own throat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1620.

    @1605. annieavatar

    You're wrong, we're not officially out of the EU..

    what would you do instead ? let the EU tax away tens of billions more out of us to help prop up the EZ ? why should we pay more when we're the 2nd biggest net contributor ?

    the whole "dc protected his banker chums" argument is just pathetic, childish and ignorant.

  • Comment number 1619.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1618.

    Better to be on the edge of the pit watching all the rest sink than being one of those grabbing at one another in a panic to try to stay afloat and drowning 'en mass' - (Bronze medal personal survival 1962)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1617.

    @sugaree - No it doesn't - go away and learn some basic German

  • rate this

    Comment number 1616.

    Nick Clegg warns European veto 'bad for Britain'
    But he didn't explain why he thinks so
    All this talk about being at the centre of EU, at the top table, centre of discussions which affect us? Only because more loss of sovereignty at issue as otherwise would not affect the UK.
    Clegg contradicts himself & never explains his position - UK has 3 million jobs dependent on Europe & not on the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 1615.

    I've been reading the German media, and surprisingly it's one of the few Eurozone countries where there is some support for Britain's stand. But some have pointed out that much of Britain's disdain from a European treaty is owing to its nationalism throwing back to the War years (they cite DC's comparison with Churchillian Bull-dog). I wonder if there's some truth to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1614.

    David, you have blown it. You, as an experienced politician, should know that you go to conferences such as this with a promise and an ideal in your heart. However, when faced with reality on the world stage, if you have any doubts about the situation, you come back and consult the people you are supposed to trust; us the electorate.

    Instead you ran scared of your MPs and let us down. I'm sorry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1613.

    It was necessary for the PM to get concessions or to veto to protect our Fin services but people should remember 1 EU was based on an idea by Winston Churchill to link France and Germany economically. 2 EU is democratic or we could not have opted out. 3 a trading union has to have a level playing field so laws on trade and employment are needed. 4 the EZ saves its members millions in currency cost


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