Europe - the coalition shakes


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Well, that's clear then. Nick Clegg has described the outcome of the EU summit as "potentially damaging for Britain as a whole".

He said it was "spectacularly misguided" to call it a triumph.

He declared that "there is nothing bulldog" about hovering over the mid-Atlantic.

He pledged to "fight, fight and fight again" to keep Britain in Europe and influential in it.

Those are the phrases from his interview with Andrew Marr which will grab the headlines but there are two claims which are equally significant.

Firstly, 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 - in other words David Cameron's veto was not the fault of European politics but the inevitable consequence of Tory politics.

He may be wondering this morning why he agreed to a negotiating position which allowed a Conservative Eurosceptic to say "No", blame Europe for it and declare that he had Lib Dem support.

Secondly, Nick Clegg said that those who worried that this deal might damage rather than protect the City of London "might be right". In other words the veto may not even have achieved its goal.

The proposal for a financial transaction tax was always separately veto-able by Britain. The argument about City regulations was about the danger of a newly united eurozone being able to outvote the UK - using qualified majority voting or QMV - under new rules which are still due to come in 2014.

So, now we have a government split between a party which wants to see this veto as the first step to a totally new looser relationship with the EU and a party led by a man who's pledging to "fight, fight and fight again" to stop that happening.

Can a coalition split so spectacularly on Europe be sustained for three and a half years? Will either side want it to be?

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    If Mr Clegg really wants to re establish our position in Europe he needs to start planning now for his exit from the Coalition.Trouble is the Lib Dems are likely to get whipped at the polls if he goes any time soon.
    Perhaps a pro Europe Coalition Lab /Con/Libdem would be an interesting development. Unthinkable? Just remember what has happened in the last couple of years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    See this link from openeurope to understand why DC fought hard for UK Financial services:

    Financial services are a big export earner, and we have a strong global competitive position. But within the EU our voting weight on Financial services is much lower than the importance to our country in contrast to many other countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Best comment I've heard about this"Britain is left isolated, about as isolated as being left at the quayside when the Titanic sailed"

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Other countries have a red line too. The Irish seems to have kept the low corporation tax, the French seems to have kept protectionist agricultural policies, the Germans seems to have managed to stay away from Eurobonds, etc. Why could not Cameron manage to stay away from the financial transaction tax for the City without walking away from the EU? What kind of negotiation skill is that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I thought they had made it a legal impossibility to have an election before 2015. In any case, I doubt if either the liberals or the conservatives want an election just yet awhile, so the coalition will survive.

    Cameron and Clegg will somehow conspire to keep their lips buttoned, rather than spark a civil war within the coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I think he came to think that the issue was worrying enough to the core support of the pro-europe Lib Dems that the standard cabinet responsibility line would not help anyone - it gained no new supporters, while alienating that core and not affecting things. So instead it becomes a real fight, but I think only a short one. Labour might be annoyed that their view will get missed in all this though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    @ No. 3 BMT

    "What Clegg is doing is showing the Lib-Dems yet again trying to be all things to all people all the time.He needs to understand that when you're in power you're there at the bidding of the majority not the minority."

    Errrr..... the Tories didn't get a majority. They have no mandate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    The EU is heading in a direction that most people in the UK don’t want to go. It is simply not possible to avoid a referendum. The reality is, Merkel and Sarkozy are giving us 2 choices; join the Euro and get a seat at the Top Table or leave the EU completely. And, unless the Euro fails, there will be no middle ground to occupy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Cheerio, UKIP. The Tories have usurped your policies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The city is more vulnerable than ever! Why? Two big reasons for starters:
    1 American financial institutions will want to be inside the 'big' euro financial tent.
    2 France and German financial institutions will be repatriated back to Paris and Frankfurt

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    This seems like Clegg is attempting a last ditch sop to his party and grass roots.

    It's too late after the horse has bolted. The deal is done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    D minus. When will Clegg knuckle down to learning how to do politics? It doesn't appear to be his strong subject, he's much better at sport (esp. stationary rowing).

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    For goodness sake calm down. First a split with Europe now a split in our government. This hysteria. Think. The French didn't want a 27 agreement because using the existing structures they would been tied down hard. When the Germans realise they have been stitched up as well and there is too much riggle room, they will be back to the table. The markets will probably decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Yet another case of the Limp Dems saying one thing and doing another just like on tuition fees. They are a bunch of hypocrites who would sell their grannies for a sniff of power. If they are so committed dissolve the coalition and demand an election and see if they can fill a phone box with whats left of them afterwards

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Lets retreat back to the EEA. At the moment nobody listens to us in the EU and we get the blame for everything. Lets just sit on the sidelines, take no responsibility and let them try and implement their unwieldy, undemocratic Franco-German compromises. I love Europe, but the EU is something quite different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    What a spectacularly misguided position from Mr Clegg. Was he lying before when he backed Cameron? Did he really set out this position to Cameron before the veto was used? Does he think Britain even cares?

    This is nothing more than jumping on the Labour and left wing press band wagon. David Cameron correctly stood up for the British voter and has support from the vast majority of the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    What Clegg is doing is showing the Lib-Dems yet again trying to be all things to all people all the time.He needs to understand that when you're in power you're there at the bidding of the majority not the minority.The Lib-Dems, whether the coalition lasts or not, are finished as a political force.They're too ready to dump their priciples in order to cling to power now.Labour or no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Which is a totally differant position that Clegg took on the Friday when first in front of the cameras

    Little wonder the Limp Dims only poll 10% or below, I salute Cameron for once he has acted in Britains interests, this deal only suits the Germans and does nothing to solve the debt crisis.

    The French supported it as Sarkozy thinks he will get his wish for Eurobonds,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    So why didn't he say all that stuff to Cameron at midnight before the summit then? Clegg, now with less influence than Bill Cash, is being reduced to desperate pleas through the media that he has any say at all in this Torylition.


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