Veto might isolate Britain, Clegg says
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he is ‘disappointed’ by the outcome of last week’s EU summit. REUTERS photoBritish Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg opened up tensions in the coalition government yesterday, warning that the country risks becoming an international “pygmy” after vetoing a new European Union treaty.
The leader of the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats spoke out despite a poll showing public support for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to stay out of deal aimed at solving the eurozone debt crisis.
Clegg had at first publicly backed the prime minister after the EU summit in Brussels on Dec. 9, but he broke ranks yesterday and said he had told Cameron the outcome was “bad for Britain”.
“I am bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last week’s summit, precisely because I think there is now a real danger that over time the United Kingdom will be isolated and marginalized within the European Union,” Clegg told BBC TV.
He also hit out at so-called “eurosceptic” elements among Cameron’s Conservatives who are now pushing for Britain to hold a referendum on its troubled membership of the EU.
“I think a Britain which leaves the EU will be considered to be irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world,” he said.
But he denied that the Conservative-led coalition, which took power in 2010 with a mission to cut Britain’s record deficit with a string of tough austerity measures, would now collapse.
“It would be even more damaging for us as a country if the coalition government were now to
fall apart, that would create economic disaster for the country at a time of great economic uncertainty,” he said.