Nick Clegg – Europe: Britain is stronger, better, greater when we lead

Nick Clegg has emailed party members this afternoon, following the EU summit last Thursday:

Support for Europe has always been a cornerstone of what our party stands for. Recent days have been tough for pro-Europeans in our country, but I am clear that it is in Britain’s national interest to remain at the heart of Europe.

As I have made clear since Friday, I am bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last weeks summit, which ended with the UK in a minority of one. There is now a real danger that over time the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the EU and as a consequence, our influence in the world will shrink. That is not good for jobs and growth; and will do nothing for struggling families across the country.

There is no doubt that we were in a difficult position because of the refusal to compromise from some member states and the eurosceptics in the Conservative Party. It was clear that some combination of guarantees on the operation of the single market, including in financial services, was necessary if we were going to ensure the safe passage of the package through Parliament. I regret the negotiations failed to arrive at a compromise, as I had hoped.

It is important that we now look to the future. That’s why I, as a Liberal Democrat in this Coalition Government will do everything I can to make sure that this setback does not become a permanent divide. I am determined that we redouble our leadership on things like the single market, the environment, foreign policy, and defence – all the things that we need to do at a European level.

All my political life I have believed that Britain is stronger, better, greater when we lead and when we stand tall in Europe. Now, more than ever, we need a strong Liberal Democrat voice inside government making this case.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

P.S. On Thursday this week, we have a vital by election in Feltham and Heston. Please help our excellent candidate Roger Crouch if you can.

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22 Comments

  • Where was Clegg when Cameron gave his statement to the House of Commons?

    BBC Nick Robinson says Clegg stayed away so as not to be a ‘distraction’.

    Appauling decision from Clegg, truly appalling.

    I want a leader who sticks to his guns and fronts up to things – not flip flops then hides.

    What the hell has happened over this last few days – really quite disaterous judgement being shown.

  • Daniel Henry 12th Dec '11 - 4:40pm

    That’s quite possibly what he had in mind anyway.

  • Christopher Tipping 12th Dec '11 - 5:11pm

    Polls suggest 48% of Lib Dems back David Camerons veto, why won’t Clegg act like a member of government instead of acting like a spoilt child, I have voted lib dem twice but never again

  • Dear Nick, I think it would have been more appropriate to have attended the House of Commons this afternoon to ask a question or two of your Coalition partners. How can you appear on TV but not take your seat in the Commons. I voted LibDem – I really did for the first and last time. Is there nothing this Govt can do, no betrayal of LibDem policy that is a step too far? If Cameron used a veto – how about a veto on Student Fees, abolishing EMA, Atos attack on the disabled, scraping 710,000 public sector worker jobs, dismantling the NHS, extending Grammar Schools – and you’ve only been there 18 months. The irony is that the LibDem position is, I think, that we should seek to be present at the negotiation table. How does that stack with being invisible in the House of Commons? The Tories have mugged the LibDems – and as Baroness Tonge says ‘It’s about time they woke up”. This is a Coalition in the banker’s interests not the national interest.

  • Philip Rolle 12th Dec '11 - 5:24pm

    Having been so critical on TV, not appearing in the Commons is somwhat surprising to say the least.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Dec '11 - 5:43pm

    orbyuk

    If Cameron used a veto – how about a veto on Student Fees, abolishing EMA, Atos attack on the disabled, scraping 710,000 public sector worker jobs, dismantling the NHS, extending Grammar Schools

    The House of Commons is not set up with such a power of veto. Policies require a majority, that’s all. Are you suggesting that every party represented in the Commons should have a power of veto?

    The only real threat Clegg and the Liberal Democrats can use is to pull out of the coalition. As has been noted elsewhere, this would not automatically result in a collapse of the government and a new election because we now have fixed term Parliaments. Cameron would still be PM, and could carry on so long as the rest of the Commons did not unite against him in a vote of confidence. It was the arithmetic required for this to succeed which rules out a Labour-LibDem coalition as unviable. Cameron could appeal for the support of the Northern Ireland Unionist MPs to carry on. This was what happened at the end of the Callaghan government in the 1970s.

    The Liberal Democrats are simply not in a position to force the Conservative Party to abandon its own policies wholesale and adopt Liberal Democrat policies wholesale. From Cameron’s point of view, his own party’s Tea Party wing is pressing just as hard as the Liberal Democrats in the opposite direction.

    There would be an argument that the current government is illegitimate because it is so dominated by the Tories on just 36% of the vote. But that argument was destroyed by the AV referendum in May of this year. The “No” campaign argued that it is better to have a Parliament in which the representation of the largest party is distorted upwards and of third parties distorted downwards because that leads to more “decisive” governments. That is what we have now, that distortion is what gives Cameron so much power and Clegg so little. The British people could have signalled that they were unhappy with this distortion by voting in favour of the small step away form it that is AV – nowhere near fully proportional, but it would have meant more LibDem MPs and fewer Conservative MPs in 2010, it would have made a Labour-LibDem coalition viable. The people of Britain decided to vote against it. In that way, just a few months ago, the people of Britain voted – by a two-to-one majority – to have the government we have now, because it is the only viable government to come from the system they supported.

    Sorry, but if people don’t like it they shouldn’t have voted for it. I mean this – the overwhelming success of “No” after a campaign which was dominated by their claim that the distortion of the current system in favour of the biggest party was its main virtue – was a ringing vote if endorsement for the government we have now. Everyone who voted “No” in effect voted Tory because by voting “No” they destroyed the main argument against this government. By leaving us in a position where it is now said the debate on electoral reform is closed, everyone who voted “No” votes Tory in a more profound and deeper way than if they had actually put their X against the name of a Conservative Party candidate. They not only voted to endorse this Tory government, they voted for us to have Tory government after Tory government because it is our rotten electoral system which keep the Tories in power even when they get way under half the vote, and by two-to-one the people of Britain voted to keep it.

  • Don Lawrence 12th Dec '11 - 6:13pm

    Funny,

    I thought that the AV campaign was lost because our campaign was rubbish and the No Campaigners fought dirty.

  • Don Lawrence 12th Dec '11 - 6:17pm

    “Now, more than ever, we need a strong Liberal Democrat voice inside government making this case. ”

    Yes Nick, but who can provide it?

  • @ matthew huntbach. I think you’ll find that how people voted in the AV referendum had & has no bearing on who makes up our current government. I wish it had been a referendum on this coalition.

    No, the reason we have a tory government is because lib dem mps voted for it.

    The reason we’re likely to keep having tory governments is because lib dem mps have supported a cut in mp numbers combined with controversial boundary changes, & an electoral registration system which will under represent urban areas.

    It didn’t have to be this way – the tories do not have a majority in the commons. This is happening because lib dem mps are allowing it. Ironically, the lib dems were massively powerful after the election – far more than either the national vote (3rd place) or seat numbers would justify. Your negotiators blew it.

    Still, at least you got some of the AV frustration of your chest (blaming everyone but the lib dems, naturally)…

  • “I am clear that it is in Britain’s national interest to remain at the heart of Europe.”

    Sounds good – except at this stage it is clear that the UK has no chance of being at the heart of Europe and it is doubtful that the UK can even remain in Europe with the current attitude of the government.

    After this fiasco, the choice for the electorate would seem to boil down to what flavour of UKIP you want represented in parliament. You can have UKIP original, UKIP traditional (the Conservatives), UKIP red (Labour) or UKIP lite (the Lib Dems).

    The Lib Dem voters who voted for a pro-Electoral Reform, pro-EU party are going to have a real hard time figuring out why they should vote Lib Dem come the next election. Losing the battle on one of those could be excused, on two though and it just looks like plain incompetence.

    What exactly is the Lib Dem’s “bottom line” anymore?

  • Tony Dawson 12th Dec '11 - 6:46pm

    “chrisw:

    “The reason we’re likely to keep having tory governments is because lib dem mps have supported a cut in mp numbers combined with controversial boundary changes, & an electoral registration system which will under represent urban areas.”

    There will be no under-representation of Urban areas. In fact, due to differential Party support in the various constituency types, Labour will continue to be over-represented in the next Parliament.

    So your hopes of a Labour government, which will restore the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, as they did last time, will be kept alive! :-(

  • @ Matthew Huntback

    Thanks but I do understand how our system works. Of course I meant in terms of negotiating with Cameron on the agreement and future policy. Assuming there was a ‘negotiation’. Cameron depends upon the LibDems to stay in power – in theory that gives Nick quite a powerful veto every time Osbourne, Gove et al come up with various policy proposals. As has been pointed out there was and is an alternative to the Coalition Agreement –

    @ chrisw is absolutely correct. I feel conned and angry and do not feel that the Coalition is acting in the ‘national interest’. Simply stating that is does repeatedly whilst implementing Tory policy does not make me feel any better. There must come a time when Libdems ‘take and stock’ and admit that they have made an awful, catastrophic decision. How could it have been any worse?

  • My reply to you Nick…Are your actions your own or are you being ‘advised’? If the latter, SACK THEM; if the former, Give up now!

    Your performance rivals that of ‘Wile E. Coyote’…You step off a cliff and, just when we think things cannot get any worse, there’s this great big boulder following you down!

    Your inital support (boosted by William Hague’s assertion that you were “Fully in agreement with the veto” and were being “kept informed”) managed to alienate those who expected strong LibDem defence of Europe. Your ‘volte face’ over the weekend, and your failure to appear in the Commons, have managed to do the same for those who supported Cameron’s stance.

    Forget the LbDem faithful; it is not the ‘choir’ you have to convince; it’s the rest of the country and, judging from independent pundits, ‘Nil Points’!.

  • Britain is stronger, better, greater when we lead

    When did we last do so? 1918?

    I don’t see any great reason to believe that the benighted continentals are desperately awaiting Britain to lead them. It looks rather more as though they want to go in a different direction to us.

    So we cannot lead. We can only follow in a direction we do not want to go, or can strike out on our own. Either way, we will not be leading.

  • I m a bit confused as to why Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg backed mr Cameron, now they dont, has there been some mistakes?
    Cameron didnt consult with Clegg, or the Scottish parliament, I know he thinks he doesnt have to, but he is wrong, on both counts.
    The Liberals in Scotland were desimated in May, and the title on the top of the page doesnt do us any good (in Scotland anyway)

  • Tom Williamson 12th Dec '11 - 10:32pm

    If Nick Clegg and the other Lib Dem Ministers wish to extract revenge on Cameron and the Tory Right, then Clegg should announce publicly without recourse to Cameron that as the Government have protected the City, they will now push for a special one off tax on Bankers Bonuses of a 75p in the pound on all bonuses over £500,000, with all the proceeds going to Help the Heroes. Lets see Cameron and Osborne and the tory right then defend the bankers to population in the UK. By such means Clegg would have taken back the initiative from the Tories. Unfortunately I will not hold my breath as I now believe that Nick, Danny et al are more concerned with their ministerial perks than they are with fighting tooth and nail for Lib Dem values. To date Cameron has run rings around Nick Clegg and it would be nice to see the Tories put through the ringer. I am not holding my breath, a very disillusioned Lib Dem supporter.

  • Simon Bamonte 13th Dec '11 - 1:00am

    @chrisw completely nails it.

    Speaking of “the national interest”, tonight the Lords voted in support of the government to remove 50% of benefits from some disabled children. Can anyone please explain why this is in the national interest, but making sure those with the broadest shoulders pay anything more than a temporary 50% tax on all earnings in excess of £150,000 is not in the national interest? The last national emergency of such proportions, if we believe economists, was World War II. Tax rates were astronomical then, with the top rate rising as high as 99%. Even Thatcher, the arch-capitalist, maintained a 60% top rate of tax for some time during the 1980s. Yet in this crisis, if we tax the very rich any more, they will “go elsewhere” supposedly. What kind of people, who are already very wealthy, put greater riches above paying a fair share, in times of crisis, to the nation that allowed them their very success?

    As Chancellor Sir John Simon said of the wartime budget in 1939: “I am confident that we can rely of the great army of taxpayers to carry us with success through this part of the field, just as we rely confidently on the Armed Forces of the Crown in the grim struggle they have to face”.

    All in this together indeed.

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    Clegg and the Liberal Democrats aren’t as weak as all that. The electoral arithmetic is such that Cameron can survive a confidence vote, sure. But under the fixed term parliaments it would mean he’d be limping on for three long years as a minority government, being held to ransom on every last policy by his right wing loonies, having to horse-trade with Labour and the Liberal Democrats for everything he wants to resist them on, and not being able to pass any legislation if he doesn’t resist them.

    Clegg and the ministerial team need to go back into cabinet with that message, and tell Cameron that the price is [insert major policy concessions here]. We need to be in this government to enact our policy as well as just stopping the Tories from enacting their entire agenda – we can stop them from doing any of it from the opposition benches after all.

    My favourites would be to insist that Cam call Osborne off from obstructing the Environment agenda, because that’s one department at least that we’re broadly successful in, and to move the focus of the deficit reduction strategy away from continuing cuts and towards opening up new revenue streams. We’ve got some very good ideas in this party on how to do that without obstructing economic growth, and I think its time we started publicly calling for them, regardless of how angry it’ll make the smug gloaters on the Tory right.

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