Coalition crisis as Clegg claims Cameron has ‘left Britain isolated’

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
The pact between the Conservatives and the Lib Dem’s is under pressure today as Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg embarks on a tour of TV and radio studios in an attempt at distancing himself from PM David Cameron’s decision on Europe.
 
Mr Clegg’s apparent U-turn follows his backing for Cameron on Friday after the Tory leader refused to sign up to a deal aimed at dealing with Europe’s financial crisis.

Today however, in an apparent response to pressure from Lib Dem backbenchers, Mr Clegg is claiming that the decision by the PM effectively leaves the UK isolated in Europe.

It has also emerged that the Lib Dem leader, who is also the Deputy PM was only informed of the situation at 04:00 am on Friday Morning.

The row between the coalition partners follows a deal thrashed out between Europe’s member states aimed at addressing the financial problems currently besetting the region. 

However Mr Cameron refused to join the agreement after his demands that the City of London be exempt from new rules, aimed at preventing a recurrence of the situation, were not met.

Critics have pointed out that the UK is now effectively frozen out of any discussions over financial regulation that will impact on the City.  Many financial institutions with bases in London carry out the bulk of their trading in the Eurozone and will be directly affected by any regulatory changes.

Clegg’s criticism of the PM is the first real test for the coalition and will pile pressure on Cameron to find a compromise. 

The Lib Dem leader is also aware that his party’s stance on Europe is one of the last key areas in which it disagrees with the larger coalition partner, having dropped their opposition to tuition fees and the pace of austerity cuts.

According to the Independent on Sunday a source close to Mr Clegg said: “Nick certainly doesn’t think this is a good deal for Britain, for British jobs or British growth.

“It leaves us isolated in Europe and that is not in our national interest.  Nick’s fear is that we become the lonely man of Europe.

“He could not believe that Cameron hadn’t tried to play for more time.  That is not how Nick would have played Britain’s hand.”

According to the paper another Lib Dem source said that if the Conservatives “think we can now go back to Europe with a sackful of demands about repatriating powers, they are living in a fantasy world”.

Cameron faced criticism from within his own party with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke saying: “It’s a disappointing, very surprising outcome.

“There will be a big statement made by the prime minister on Monday where I shall be sitting listening, and I shall be discussing what we are going to do now.”

According to the Scotland on Sunday, former Lib Dem MSP and now Lord, Jim Wallace, also admitted his party was concerned about the increasing influence Tory Euro-extremists had on the UK government.

He said: “Of course we are concerned about that element,”

“If there was a threat to the coalition it comes from the more extreme Eurosceptics who actually want to bust the coalition and to take Britain out of Europe.  That is very clearly against Britain’s national interest and we all have to resist it.”

The Tory PM’s decision to back out of any deal was met with a fanfare of triumphalism by Eurosceptic MPs when he returned from the negotiations on Friday.

Mr Cameron had used the UK’s veto and had refused to back an agreement aimed at strengthening financial regulations in an attempt at addressing the Euro debt crisis.  The decision left the UK isolated as the remaining 26 members formed their own group around key Eurozone issues.

Europe is the UK’s biggest trading partner and there are fears that Cameron’s decision could end up having a negative impact on trading, the economy and jobs.