POLITICS

Cameron's EU Veto Statement Missed By Clegg Who Wanted To 'Avoid Distraction'

12/12/2011 14:21 | Updated 12 December 2011

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...

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12/12/2011 17:10 GMT

'I am not my deputy's keeper'

@ CarolineFlintMP :

Asked where Nick Clegg is? PM says "I am not responsible for his whereabouts". #Cleggawol

12/12/2011 17:10 GMT

Is Cameron out of the danger zone?

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.

Read more here

12/12/2011 17:05 GMT

And what's going on with the markets you ask?

CNBC reports:

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.

12/12/2011 16:34 GMT

Debate is becoming a bit predictable...

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?

12/12/2011 16:20 GMT

Cable has left the building. As has Huhne.

Clearly the Lib Dem contingent of the cabinet has given up on this Tory love-in. Danny Alexander remains on the front bench, however.

12/12/2011 16:18 GMT

Cam insists Clegg agreed the negotiating position before the summit

PM: it is no surprise to see the coalition doesn't agree on Europe.

12/12/2011 16:05 GMT

Margaret Hodge accuses PM of not doing his homework...

...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.

12/12/2011 16:03 GMT

About 60 MPs want to speak. We could be here some time...

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.

12/12/2011 15:59 GMT

@ RAGreeneCNN :

Parting shot: Only one thing is trending related to David Cameron explaining his EU veto - his absent deputy Nick Clegg. Distraction indeed

12/12/2011 15:58 GMT

@ catherine_mayer :

Whatever else the veto has done, it's energised @Ed_MiIiband Best performance ever at the dispatch box

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