UK Politics

Nick Clegg: Coalition government best for businesses

Nick Clegg
Image caption Nick Clegg said there was "no future" if the UK tried to "wish away the world around us"

Nick Clegg has told business leaders that they face a "very real" threat from single-party government.

The Liberal Democrat leader said government solely by Labour or the Conservatives posed "very considerable risks" to the British economy.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, he warned that UK businesses will "bear the brunt" of the next government's economic policies.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband have also addressed the CBI on Monday.

The deputy prime minister said that those who want a return to single-party government after the 2015 election should "be careful what they wish for".

'Back at square one'

Mr Clegg told the audience in London that "day by day it is becoming clearer that a Labour government on its own will fail to balance the books", and that Ed Miliband's party "has not learnt a single lesson about fiscal responsibility".

About his party's coalition partners, he said: "The Conservative Party on its own will end up shutting the door, cutting us adrift from our European neighbours."

He said the economic recovery was extremely "delicate", and that it was not possible "to hold the course, politically speaking, unless you anchor government in the centre ground and don't lurch left or right."

"You don't lurch to an anti-market, anti-business stance which you see from the left, you don't lurch to a chauvinistic, xenophobic stance which we increasingly see on the right."

Mr Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats "cannot and will not just sit back and watch that happen", and vowed to "fight tooth and nail to get back into government again".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nick said "nothing could be more dangerous" than assuming the economic recovery was complete

The deputy prime minister also touted the Liberal Democrats' performance in government as a reason to hope for another coalition.

He said that "when Britain needed a government strong enough and stable enough to get it out of a hole - the Liberal Democrats provided it".

And he added that "when this government has been at risk of lurching away from the centre ground of British politics - the rational, sensible, liberal, pragmatic centre - we have kept it there, whether on Europe, on immigration, on the cuts".

"What matters to us now is that we safeguard that success."

John Cridland, the director-general of the CBI, said: "It was good to hear Nick Clegg endorse our National Insurance and childcare proposals which will put money in the pockets of lowest paid and help working parents."

"With the job on the deficit only half done, we must remain focused on balancing the books, while remaining open to trade and people."

EU reform

On the topic of the European Union, Mr Clegg urged people to look beyond "spats" over individual EU directives and focus on the wider benefits that the UK derived from being in the EU.

"We have always been a great trading nation and an open society...There is simply no future for you all, your country if we turn our backs on the world and try and pull up the drawbridge, if we try and wish away the world around us."

He defended his party's decision to offer an EU referendum only in the event of significant treaty change, but said it was "absurd to say if you're in favour of the EU you're not in favour of reform".

Mr Clegg claimed that he would "bow to no-one in my impatience for reform".

He also spoke of the need to modernise much of the "creaking, Victorian infrastructure" in the UK.

The Conservative leader - and Prime Minister - David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband also addressed the business lobbying group's annual one day gathering.

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