By a Newsnet reporter
Nick Clegg has warned of the ‘chilling effect’ of an EU referendum, which demonstrates that the Westminster government is prepared to sacrifice jobs across the UK in order to pursue its policy of isolation in Europe, say the SNP.
In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned that uncertainty over Europe “would have a chilling effect on jobs and growth” and stressed that any debate on UK membership of the EU was likely to last for years and years.
Angus Robertson MP, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, said that this unequivocal statement from the Deputy Prime Minister indicates that the Westminster Government is fully aware of the economic damage that such a course of action could cause, yet appears determined to press on regardless.
The USA and Germany have both intervened in the debate on the UK’s relationship with the rest of the EU, delivering strong warnings last week against moves by the UK to become isolated and inward looking instead of working with our neighbours.
It was announced on Monday that David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on the UK’s relationship with the EU will take place this Friday (18th January) in the Netherlands. Cameron is expected to outline plans which are likely to lead to a referendum on the UK’s relationship with the EU.
Adding to the speculation of an upcoming EU referendum, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said the UK should only remain a part of the EU if it suits its own national interest, but not “stay at any price”.
Mr Pickles told the BBC he would not vote along party lines in a future referendum on the UK’s EU membership. “I’ll be voting on what I think is the interests of the country,” he said.
The prime minister is facing pressure to hold a referendum on Europe and has been criticised by some on the right his own party for not doing more to distance the UK from the EU.
David Cameron is expected to announce in a speech later this month that his party will offer a referendum on Europe to take place after the next UK general election, which is due in early May 2015.
Last week, Lord Heseltine criticised the prime minister’s European strategy, saying an “ill-advised” referendum would jeopardise the UK’s business prospects, adding that offering a referendum on EU membership would be a “punt” that would “drive away inward investment”.
Angus Robertson said:
“Nick Clegg’s statement is extremely telling as it shows that the Westminster Government knows full well the damage that a referendum on the EU would do, but it seems that David Cameron is set to press on regardless.
“Nick Clegg has correctly identified that uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with our EU neighbours is hugely damaging to economic prospects and jobs, but the fact of the matter is that this uncertainty is only being caused by the coalition government’s determination to pick an unnecessary fight.
“Westminster appears determined to put self-serving debates over EU membership ahead of securing jobs and economic recovery.
“People in Scotland have no interest in becoming isolated and inward looking, but that is the future that the anti-independence campaign is trying to argue for if Scotland remains tied to the Westminster system.
“This unnecessary threat to jobs and prosperity in Scotland is one that is entirely of Westminster’s own making and the only thing that will fully secure Scotland’s future as a full and active part of the EU is a Yes vote in next year’s referendum.
“It is only with our own voice in Europe as an independent country that we will be able to ensure that Scotland is always present at the top tables of Europe instead of our interests being dragged down and damaged by a Westminster government that is more interested in turning its back on working with our partners.”