Clegg risks coalition tension with pro-Europe speech

Nick Clegg: 'I will not hide my frustration.'
Nick Clegg: 'I will not hide my frustration.'

By Ian Dunt

Nick Clegg will risk further tensions in the coalition today with a strongly pro-European speech attacking those who want to use the eurocrisis to back away from the project.

Speaking at the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards, Mr Clegg will say that Britain needs to use the crisis to get a better deal out of the European Union rather than retreating to a eurosceptic position.

"There are some people who see the current troubles as an opportunity for the UK to retreat from Europe," the deputy prime minister is expected to say.

"A moment to withdraw, preferring isolationism, protectionism…. That is cutting our nose off to spite our face."

Mr Clegg will argue that the eurocrisis offers an oppourtunity to deepen and expand the single market.

"I will not hide my frustration at the fact that Whitehall has become so much better at saying 'no' to Europe than getting the rest of Europe to say 'yes' to us," he will continue.

"Under successive governments, a culture has grown up in which the starting point is never 'what can we get out of Europe?' but rather 'how can we protect ourselves from Europe?'

"That hurts the British people. It is a betrayal of great British achievements and it's going to change."

The deputy prime minister will argue that Britain should not take "a backseat on trade between the EU and the rest of the world" and that Britain should adopt a much more public approach to European business negotiations.

"It's all part of a new approach," he will add.

"This isn't a moment to step away from Europe. This is a moment to lead."

The speech is likely to further enrage Tory backbenchers who are keen to seize on the eurozone crisis to further distance Britain from the EU.

Many key eurosceptics are hoping that changes at EU level will force the need for an referendum on transfer of power while others are merely content to allow the ongoing crisis to play to their long-term objectives.


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