Cameron's EU Veto Statement Missed By Clegg Who Wanted To 'Avoid Distraction'
David Cameron again defended his decision to veto a proposed EU-wide treaty to braying backbenchers on Monday, but without his deputy by his side.
The prime minister said he made "no apology" for rejecting a treaty which he said lacked proper safeguards to protect British interests.
Nick Clegg, who said on Sunday he was "bitterly dissapointed" by the prime minister using his veto, did not appear in the Chamber for the prime minister's statement on the European Council meetings.
As Labour MPs chanted "Where's Clegg?" - and - "You ate Clegg" at Cameron, the prime minister said: "The right answer was no treaty. It was not an easy thing to do but it was the right thing to do."
However Cameron acknowledged that there were coalition tensions on Europe, but insisted that the negotiating position had been agreed by the Cabinet ahead of the summit.
Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of isolating Britain, saying the use of the veto was "bad for business, bad for jobs, bad for Britain". In an usually strong performance by Miliband, he said the PM had walked away from the table too soon, and failed to show leadership on the crisis.
Cameron's veto has been criticised by some business leaders, along with the Scottish government and many Liberal Democrats, including coded criticism by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg. Cameron's veto is being seen as one of the most destabilising events of in the coalition government's 18-month history, although most Tories are delighted at seeing their leader take a strong line on the EU.
Later it was suggested by the government that Nick Clegg had chosen not to attend the Commons for the statement, because it was felt his presence during the debate "would be a distraction". Unfortunately his absence appears to have achieved exactly that, because it's now trending on Twitter.
Here's a recap of the debate has it happened on our liveblog, feel free to comment on this developing story...
|@ CarolineFlintMP : Asked where Nick Clegg is? PM says "I am not responsible for his whereabouts". #Cleggawol|
James Kirkup blogs:
OK, I know everyone's going to be more excited about where Nick Clegg was, but I'm going to be boring (as usual) and look at the words Mr Cameron has just spoken in the House of Commons.
European shares closed sharply lower on Monday in thin trade, dragged down by banks, as concerns persisted that the measures outlined at last week's EU summit would be of limited value in resolving the euro zone debt crisis.
It's turning into a volley of easy questions from happy Tories. So we'll leave it there. A good day for Tories, who are united and happy.
Not a bad day for Ed Miliband, who looked like a decent opposition leader at the despatch box, unfortunately on an issue which the public are largely behind the PM on.
A miserable day for the Lib Dems. Clegg's failure to turn up remains a mystery. But what can they do when they're already about as unpopular as they can be?
Clearly the Lib Dem contingent of the cabinet has given up on this Tory love-in. Danny Alexander remains on the front bench, however.
PM: it is no surprise to see the coalition doesn't agree on Europe.
...well it would be prep in Cam's case, obviously. The PAC chair says it's either that or the PM went to the summit always knowing he'd wield the veto.
Unsurprisingly Cameron says neither of those things are correct.
Cameron is currently pointing out that if the seventeen Eurozone countries want to proceed with further fiscal union, that's fine.
Sir Menzies Campbell is now on his feet and trying to be constructive. Labour are irritated by this.
Cameron is agreeing, sort of, but the PM's message is that the single market is what matters the most.
|@ RAGreeneCNN : Parting shot: Only one thing is trending related to David Cameron explaining his EU veto - his absent deputy Nick Clegg. Distraction indeed|
|@ catherine_mayer : Whatever else the veto has done, it's energised @Ed_MiIiband Best performance ever at the dispatch box|
Labour like this a lot. The Father of the House got first dibs on questions following the statement.
|@ JohnHigginson : Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert nodding along to Ed Mili's speech to the Commons on Cameron's veto|
|@ ITVLauraK : PM is up in Commons defending his veto decision now, one FTSE boss told me it was 'peculiar' ..@chrisshipitv is tweeting the statement|
|@ RicHolden : Here we are. Weak Ed Miliband, sitting on the fence over what HE would have done. Just as he did with the strikes. Veto is right for Britain|
|@ RAGreeneCNN : Drunken frat party soundtrack erupts as UK PM David Cameron sits after EU veto statement. Miliband points out Clegg absence|
But Ed Miliband is doing pretty well, even though this is an issue he can't win many votes on.
Ed Miliband mentions the former DPM's criticism of the veto. Tories scoff.
Even Cameron looked at Miliband with derision, as though Hezza's comments have little importance.
The Labour leader wants to know:- Why did he walk away from the table?
- What are the implications for the economy.
Miliband brands it a "diplomatic disaster" that the other 26 are in agreement. And he notes that Clegg is missing from the Commons.
Now Ed Miliband is on his feet.
Surprisingly Ed Balls is fairly subdued with no odd hand gestures. So far.
The PM says he supports the IMF supporting individual countries struggling with indebtedness, but he would oppose any IMF money being used to prop up a currency.
Not quite sure how you differentiate in the case of Greece or Italy....
Jeers in the chamber. Not every Tory feels this way.
..as Cameron says they did not want to see "imbalance hard-wired into the treaty without proper safeguards."
Cameron says he makes "no apology" for rejecting a treaty which lacked proper safeguards
We think he's said "proper safeguards" about ten times already.
PM denies claims that Britain wanted already that was soft on the banks, says quite the opposite, they want the banks to take some responsibility.
Cameron is outlining what he thinks will happen next.
- We want the Eurozone to sort out its problems.
- Either there should be a treaty with proper safeguards for Britain, or a Eurozone only treaty.
Cameron is on his feet but already Labour has gone mad and the Speaker is on his feet.
And Danny Alexander is standing next to the Speaker's chair. So he won't be on the TV.
But no sign of Clegg. Can he come in after the PM?
Coaliton in action? More like two members of the Cabinet who privately deplore the veto. They're sitting on the front bench having a private little chat
The arch euro sceptic looks delighted. Meanwhile Vince Cable is lurking behind the Speaker's chair on his own, looking bemused.