Clegg: Being pro-European is not unpatriotic

Nick Robinson
Political editor

media captionNick Clegg tells Nick Robinson about the case for EU membership

Who do you think is the greater patriot - Nick Clegg or Nigel Farage?

That is the question raised by the Deputy Prime Minister's passionate defence of Britain's membership of the EU today.

Having begun this European election campaign by challenging the UKIP leader to debate whether Britain should stay in or get out of the EU, he is ending it by insisting that being pro-Europe was the best way to be pro-British.

In a speech in Oxford, he attacked those he called "false patriots", saying:

"Ukip. Conservative backbenchers. Isolationists. They are not thinking about Britain's interests. They shroud their narrow nationalism in the language of patriotism. They mask their hostility towards Europe as British bulldog spirit. But these are false patriots. The isolation they offer is a breach of our history, of our great British tradition of engagement, and of our enlightened national self-interest. If the forces of insularity and chauvinism get their way they will ensure that Britain no longer benefits from the political and economic advances in Europe that we have shaped. And they will hand the keys to running our European continent to the Germans, the French and others, while we retreat back across the English Channel."

The Lib Dem leader told me that he was not insulting those who disagree with them but refuses to allow them - whether in UKIP or the Tory Party - to present themselves as fighting for Britain.

Mr Clegg knows that his party risks coming fifth in these elections behind not just UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives but the Greens as well.

He has decided that his best hope comes in unapologetically arguing for Britain's continued membership of Europe and styling the Lib Dems as the party of IN.