Clegg attacks Tory eurosceptics
Nick Clegg has delivered his strongest rebuke so far to Tory eurosceptics hoping to reclaim powers from Brussels.
The Deputy Prime Minister warned that it would be "economic suicide" for Britain to "retreat to the margins" of Europe.
Rewriting the EU's founding texts would open a "Pandora's Box" and leave the continent paralysed when it should be focused on restoring economic growth.
The Liberal Democrat leader's intervention came with David Cameron under massive pressure to bring powers back to Westminster as part of negotiations for any new treaty.
More than 80 Conservative MPs rebelled last week over a call for a referendum on UK membership of the union. And polls have suggested that two thirds of the public - and 80% of Tory voters - agreed with the rebels.
Writing in Observer, Mr Clegg said it was clear the 17 eurozone nations were moving towards more fiscal integration and the European landscape was "about to change". But he complained that "two extremes" were dominating the debate on how Britain should respond.
"On the one hand, there are some who see an opportunity for a more centralised EU, built around a tighter, quasi-federalist core," Mr Clegg wrote. "On the other, are those who imagine a chance for the UK to draw away from the union.
"They relish the prospect of a unilateral raid on Brussels' powers. The irony is that both options require treaty change - Europhiles and Europhobes are clamouring for the same thing. As always, neither extreme of the argument is right. Both would have the UK give up our place at the European top table, sacrificing the influence essential to our prosperity.
"It is only by having a loud voice in a united Europe that we can promote the open economy that will deliver growth. Being shoved to the margins, or retreating there voluntarily, would be economic suicide: a surefire way to hurt British businesses and lose jobs."
Mr Clegg said there was "sense" in amending the EU's foundations to ensure eurozone members obeyed strict budgetary rules. But he continued: "Having worked in the EU for years, my concern is that tampering with the EU's founding texts is opening a Pandora's box, leaving us paralysed by ideological battles, institutional navel-gazing and special demands from every member state."