Monday 12 December 2011

Clegg answers questions on his absence at EU debate

For those of you that missed here are the DPM's words after he missed the debate on the EU statement:

DPM: 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. Why? Not for the sake of the EU as a whole, because I think that is the right thing for jobs in this country, for growth in this country and for the livelihoods of millions of families in this country because that’s what I care about most.

Asked whether his not being there was a greater distraction:

DPM: 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. I’m not here to defend the EU in and of itself; I am here to defend the jobs and livelihoods of millions of people in this country. That’s what I care about and that’s why I think what we need to do know is build bridges, re-engage and make sure that the British voice is heard loud and clear in the heart of Europe.

Asked if he had changed his position since Friday:

DPM: On Friday, I said that I regretted the outcome, and I’ve stuck to that line and I said that I thought that anti-Europeans should be careful what they wish for so I was quite clear on Friday that I was not welcoming the outcome of the...[interrupted]

Asked about the fact that the negotiating position was agreed in advance:

DPM: I haven’t changed my mind on that at all. 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.

Asked if he was running scared from his own MPs:

DPM: 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.

Asked how damaging this is to the coalition:

DPM: The Coalition Government is here to stay. That’s absolutely clear. On this issue – and by the way, there are many issues, of course, in the Coalition where the parties differ – we differ, and it so happens to be that this is a particularly significant issue. Why is it significant? It’s worth remembering. Not because all things in the European Union are perfect, far from it, but because I think that being isolated - as one - is potentially bad for jobs, bad for growth, bad for the livelihoods of millions of people in this country. But the Coalition Government is here to stay.


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