Nick Clegg: We Will Not Change Course On Cutting Deficit, Despite Criticism

'We Will Not Change Course'

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has vowed the coalition "will not change course" on their handling of the British economy, despite Friday's GDP figures showing a drop which could lead to a triple dip recession.

Even Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said on Saturday that "policy has been on the wrong path" and that fiscal policy had been "tightened too much" by the Chancellor George Osborne.

But speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, the deputy prime minister said: "We are absolutely not going to change course in paying off one of the world's largest budget deficits.

"Why? Because if you just shrug your shoulders and say 'I'm sorry, it's too complicated', we end up asking our children and our grandchildren to pay off this generation's debt.

"I don't believe that is fair. There are parts of the economy that are strong but yes, but it is a long hard road to repair many parts of it.

"When we saw that the economic situation was tougher than many people anticipated, that growth that was going take longer, we didn't dogmatically cut further and chase our tail, we decided to be pragmatic about it, and take longer to get the job done."

On Friday, Office for National Statistics calculations showed the economy flatlined in 2012 as a whole and experts predicted it would not regain its peak level for another two years.

To his critics, Clegg said: "These are the same voices that complain that borrowing went up last December compared to the year before. We are being tough but pragmatic, we are resolute but innovative."

But he did warn that David Cameron's plans to "renegotiate" the terms of the UK's treaty with the EU, prior to a 2017 in/out referendum if the party wins in 2015, was a distraction.

The job of growing Britain's economy "is made more difficult if you spend years and years on arcane debates, tying yourself up in knots, about the terms of the membership," Clegg said.

"My view is that it is not in the national interests, when we have this very fragile economy, I don't think it helps stability. When you are trying to piece together an economy, you mustn't do anything to make that more difficult.

"If you are a car manufacturer, when you make an investment, worth hundreds of millions of pounds into a plant in the north east, you have to make plans based on what you think is going to happen in the next 10,15, 20 years.

"If you are making those decisions, you might think what is going to happen in the UK is unpredictable.

"Politics is all about priority, my party's priority is a stronger economy in a fairer society, fairer taxes, more apprenticeships, hospitals, jobs. It's not flying around European capitals renegotiating with the EU."

Ukip's leader Nigel Farage said in response: "A referendum on our membership is not in our national interest, according to Nick Clegg.

"So what has he been doing? Tinkering with the rules of royal succession. Surely allowing people a say on their future is higher up the agenda.

"The only interest that Nick Clegg cares about is his own party, sectional interest and he knows that he has no interest in letting people have their say. Which is odd, given his election manifesto in 2010 promised exactly that, an in/out referendum".

Tory former Chancellor Norman Lamont told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News that he would vote to stay in the EU "if the deal was a good one".


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