Clegg warning to Tory Eurosceptics
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has delivered a fresh warning to Tory Eurosceptics not to leave Britain isolated in the EU.
The Liberal Democrat leader said demands from Conservatives in the coalition for the repatriation of powers from Brussels could cost jobs and growth in the UK.
He accused Eurosceptics of a headlong rush down "a cul-de-sac of increasingly arcane legalistic arguments" about changes to EU treaties which may never actually happen.
"Isolation costs jobs, costs growth, costs people's livelihoods," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"That is why people need to be careful what they wish for, because if you wilfully move to the margins of Europe, before you know it you will find that it is actually hitting people where it hurts most in terms of their jobs and their livelihoods, and that is not something I think anybody should seriously want."
Mr Clegg said the "urgent, overriding national priority" for the whole coalition should be to promote jobs and growth, saying: "We do that by being in the centre of the argument, not on the outer fringes of the argument in Europe."
Speaking at the giant Sheffield Forgemasters steel plant, Mr Clegg said he was "in favour of reform", not "isolation". He added: "Obviously the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives come at this from slightly different directions. But where we are completely united is that we want to put the national interest first.
"And what is the national interest? I don't support the European Union and Britain's role in it for the sake of it.
"I do it because of its importance for jobs. This company exports over 80% of the things it produces. I think it would be more difficult for world-beating companies like that to do that if we were on the margins of what is the world's largest, borderless single market.
"We've got 500 million consumers on our European doorstep. I think it's right that, if we want to create jobs and create growth, we're at the centre of that European debate and not on the fringes of it."