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Europe row bares Cabinet divisions

Cabinet divisions over Europe were laid bare as Nick Clegg revealed he is "bitterly disappointed" with David Cameron's decision to resort to Britain's veto in Brussels.

Amid undisguised fury from senior Liberal Democrats, the Deputy Prime Minister said he had told Mr Cameron the result of last week's European Council summit was "bad for Britain".

Mr Clegg, who had initially given carefully-worded approval to the Prime Minister's actions, pointed out that Mr Cameron had failed to bring back any new safeguards for the UK economy.

"I'm bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last week's summit, precisely because I think now there is a danger that the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the European Union," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"I don't think that's good for jobs, in the City or elsewhere, I don't think it's good for growth or for families up and down the country."

Asked what he had told the Prime Minister in a 4am telephone call on Friday morning following the veto, the Lib Dem leader said: "I said this was bad for Britain. I made it clear that it was untenable for me to welcome it."

Mr Clegg made plain his frustration at the influence on Mr Cameron of eurosceptic Tory MPs, who have been jubilantly praising the Prime Minister's "bulldog spirit" in vetoing a new EU treaty at the summit.

"There's nothing bulldog about Britain hovering somewhere in the mid Atlantic, not standing tall in Europe, not being taken seriously in Washington."

The Deputy Prime Minister said if he had been at the summit then "of course things would have been different". "I'm not under the same constraints from my parliamentary party that clearly David Cameron is," he said. "What David Cameron clearly needed was to bring something back to show that safeguards were secure, and that didn't happen."

Mr Clegg dismissed any suggestion of the coalition breaking up over the disagreements but made clear he would not allow the UK to leave the EU. "Far from retreating further to the margins, which is what some eurosceptics want, we should be re-engaging fully and we are going to have to redouble our efforts in doing so," he added.


From Belfast Telegraph