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Lib Dems abstain in PM backing vote

Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat MPs have delivered a further snub to Prime Minister David Cameron by failing to support a Commons motion praising his controversial decision to veto a European treaty.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who failed to appear in support of Mr Cameron during his appearance in Parliament yesterday, did not take part in the vote as part of a co-ordinated plan by the party's 57 MPs to abstain.

The co-chairman of the party's international affairs backbench committee, Martin Horwood, told MPs the outcome of the Brussels summit was "not a good one".

The Cheltenham MP was the only member of his party to speak during the three-hour debate on a motion tabled by the Democratic Unionist Party which commended Mr Cameron's stance while recognising "the desire of the British people for a rebalancing of the relationship with our European neighbours".

The motion was supported by the Tories and comfortably passed by 278 votes to 200, majority 78.

But Mr Horwood told the Commons: "It's reasonably common knowledge that the Liberal Democrats think the outcome of last week's summit in Brussels was not a good one."

He criticised the "confrontational tactics" used at the talks and added: "The Liberal Democrats supported the initial negotiating position and actually the mystery of last week's summit is why we seemed to have so few friends in the negotiating chamber who would support those, quite reasonable, initial demands."

A disorderly break-up of the eurozone would be "catastrophic", he warned. "Perhaps the structures and the rules of a new treaty or agreement, whatever form it takes, may prove to be the beginning of a solution," he said.

But, in a swipe at eurosceptic Tories, he added: "The process is still a long way from complete and there are quite a few obstacles in its path, some of them sitting in this Chamber, I think."

Earlier, the Prime Minister was commended for "sticking to his word and wielding the veto" amid the continuing fallout between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over his historic move on Europe. Opening the debate for the Democratic Unionist Party, its parliamentary group leader Nigel Dodds said a "taboo had been broken" by the Prime Minister's decision to wield the veto in what was a "potentially watershed moment in British politics".

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