Cameron Veto: Prime Minister To Face MPs Over Euro Decision

Divided We Stand: David Cameron To Face MPs Next To His Bitterly Dissapointed Deputy

David Cameron is to face MPs over his decision to veto a proposed EU treaty on Thursday, amid signs of a coalition split.

The prime minister's actions have been described as "bitterly" disappointing by his deputy Nick Clegg, who will sit alongside him in the House of Commons during the statement this afternoon.

Clegg admitted on Sunday he was only told about David Cameron's decision to wield Britain's veto at the EU summit after the event, and said it could lead to Britain being "marginalised" in the EU.

The deputy prime minister indicated that had he been negotiating the outcome would have been "different". But he was slapped down almost immediately by foreign secretary William Hague, who labelled his claims "unlikely". Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat business secretary had to deny he was planning to resign on Monday morning, telling Sky: "No, no, I’m just getting on with my job as I always do."

Cracks have also appeared in the Conservative party, with europhile justice secretary Ken Clarke describing Cameron's decision as "disappointing" and "surprising".

Labour former foreign secretary David Miliband told Radio 4's Today programme on Monday morning that it was "the first veto in history not to stop something".

"The plans are going right ahead, it was a phantom veto against a phantom threat, David Cameron didn’t actually stop anything because the other 26 are going on and, of course, the provisions of the treaty would not have weakened our rights and freedoms one iota.

But amid an early polls by the Times showing 57% of backbenchers believe David Cameron was right to use the veto, Tory backbenchers have warned the Liberal Democrats to get in line with public opinion.

Bernard Jenkin told Sky News this morning: "If the Liberal Democrats want to stay in touch with their voters, they better catch up with David Cameron."

Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander struck a more conciliatory tone on Monday morning when he told the BBC's Today Programme that the prime minister "had a very difficult hand to play".

"This doesn’t threaten the coalition", Alexander insisted. "The coalition was formed, two parties coming together in the national interest, to deal with the fundamental economic challenges that we face as a country and to deliver a programme of reform."

And his predecessor David Laws said he thought the prime minister's demands in Europe were "reasonable": "I think what the Prime Minister was seeking were guarantees and assurances about the intentions of the other eurozone nations and was seeking to get agreement on some reasonable and modest demands.

"The problem is that the exercise of the veto has not enabled us to get any of those positions and it has excluded us from the vast majority of European Union nations who are going to be debating these issues amongst themselves", he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However there are signs of deep disquiet among senior Lib Dem peers. Baroness Jenny Tonge told BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday that "at some stage we've got to say enough is enough": "Either we say 'stop this nonsense and the coalition cannot go on', or the Conservatives decide to change tack".

And editor of The Liberal Benjamin Ramm said his party "have become hostages to coalition”.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has also criticised David Cameron using his veto, accusing the prime minister of "blundering".

German MEP and the forthcoming head of the European parliament Martin Schultz said "I doubt in the long term whether Britain will stay in the EU. The EU can, if necessary, do without Britain, but Britain would have more difficulty without the EU."

Among the running commentary on the row, Lord Mandelson has taken to the pages of The Guardian to reject the notion that Cameron's a British Bulldog. His central argument is that Thatcher never walked away from the European negotiating table, she stayed there until she'd achieved what she wanted. Mandelson contrasts that approach with the one taken by David Cameron, who he says: "put politics before economics. He clearly thought it was safer to lose Britain's place in Europe than risk losing the support of rebellious Tory MPs."

That's countered by Boris Johnson in the Telegraph, who says European leaders like Angela Merkel are being disingenuous in their anger towards Cameron. The Mayor of London's claiming that while Merkel seems furious because Cameron wielded the veto, the real source of her ire is the fact British politicians worries about the Euro and the EU project have been proven entirely accurate.


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