The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has warned of the dangers of a "rupture" within the European Union, arguing that any hasty decisions on the Eurozone crisis could cause wider problems. His comments are the first formal UK response to a proposal to create an EU-wide tax on financial institutions, a move likely to be bitterly opposed by Britain.
Clegg made the comments in a speech to a conference of the Eastern Partnership in Warsaw on Thursday afternoon. He said:
"Any change to governance structures must not lead to a weaker and divisive Europe where the aims of "Euro ins" are set against those of "Euro outs". There can be no inhibiting of trade, for example, and no obstructing the single market. Any decision that affects the 27 must always be taken by the 27.
"The European Union is built on consent, cooperation, participation. While the UK has chosen not to join the Euro, we respect the decisions taken by its members to support it. But we cannot accept arrangements that would privilege the Eurozone as a decision-making body over the European Council.
"It would not be right for the Eurozone to take decisions that bind the rest of the EU. Above all, it cannot act against the interests of those who are not members."
Nick Clegg is responding to developments within the Eurozone this week, including a proposal to create an EU-wide tax on financial institutions. Many in the City of London believe they would end up providing 80% of revenue from such a levy.
Last week the Deputy Prime Minister was forced to concede that it would have been a "huge error" for Britain to join the Eurozone, a policy which was central to the Lib Dems' agenda for many years.