Clegg Defends Absence From Cameron EU Veto Statement In Commons
Nick Clegg has defended his conspicuous absence from the Commons on Monday afternoon during David Cameron's statement on his vetoing of a new EU treaty on financial reform. The official explanation for the Deputy Prime Minister staying away from the chamber was that they'd decided him being there would be a distraction - although Labour made great fun with his absence.
Speaking on Sky News, Clegg reiterated that there was a difference of opinion between himself and David Cameron, saying: "The PM and I clearly do not agree on the outcome of the summit last week.
"I made it very clear that I think isolation in Europe when we are one against 26 is potentially a bad thing for jobs, a bad thing for growth and a bad thing for the livelihoods of millions of people in this country."
However the official explanations for what's going on at the top of government are slightly contradictory. Earlier David Cameron told MPs that the Cabinet had agreed Britain's negotiating position in advance of the EU summit last week, but this afternoon Nick Clegg said:
"When I was told the outcome of the summit, after it finished, I immediately told the Prime Minister that I could not welcome it, that I thought it was bad for Britain. I have stayed with that view since, and I have simply amplified on my reasons for that since the summit."
That Nick Clegg didn't stick to Cameron's line about the negotiating position will fuel claims by Labour that the PM walked away from the table, something Ed Miliband accused Cameron of doing during the debate in the Commons. Nick Clegg said: "The specific list of safeguards which were sought, which was a list of negotiating asks, were perfectly reasonable and perfectly measured in their scope. I haven’t changed my mind one bit from the moment the summit was closed."
However Nick Clegg played down speculation that the EU split within the Cabinet was a potential coalition dealbreaker, saying: "The coalition government is here to stay. On Europe, what I’m going to do is this – build bridges, re-engage, and make sure that the British voice is heard at the top table in Europe."