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Clegg enrages eurosceptics with ‘false promise’ attack on plan to return powers from Brussels

1 November 2012

One of the key challenges for David Cameron this autumn is to address his policy on Europe. A big speech is expected before European leaders meet in December, with some in the Conservative party hoping it will come as soon as next week in order to boost Tory chances in the Corby by-election. But because the Prime Minister is offering definition for his own party on the EU, the other party leaders must do the same. Nick Clegg’s speech today set out where he stands, and he didn’t mince his words. As well as the lines I reported earlier about opting out of law-and-order powers, the Deputy Prime Minister also had this to say on eurosceptics’ desire to repatriate British powers from the EU:

‘I want to focus on the proposal doing the rounds that the best way to improve the UK’s position in Europe is to renegotiate the terms of our relationship with the rest of the EU. We should opt out of the bad bits, stay opted in to the good bits, and the way to do that is a repatriation of British powers. That seems very reasonable; in fact, it’s a pretty seductive offer- who would disagree with that?

‘But, look a little closer, because a grand, unilateral repatriation of powers might sound appealing but in reality, it is a false promise, wrapped in a Union Jack.’

The Tories in Number 10 are relaxed about this image, saying the EU has always been an area where their party takes a tougher line than the Lib Dems, and their 2015 manifestos will clearly differ on this issue. But, unsurprisingly, eurosceptic backbenchers are a little less content. Peter Bone says:

‘That is why we should not be in coalition with him.’


Bernard Jenkin is similarly enraged:

‘It’s people like him that got the UK into this mess by giving too much power away, and yet he still thinks it right that we did so! He doesn’t get it that the British people won’t stand for it any more.’

This sort of reaction is probably exactly what Clegg was hoping for when he drafted his speech, given it is an agreed area of differentiation for the two parties.

One thing worth looking out for is whether the Lib Dems try to use last night’s rebellion as a bargaining chip. The mood among MPs is that they are constantly taking one for the team in votes, while Conservative MPs run amok. Last night’s result will have done nothing to diminish that impression.

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  • Daniel Tekel Thomas

    What is abundantly clear from Nick ‘Laval’ Clegg is that he hates the thought of an independent, sovereign Great Britain.
    He is nothing more than a colaborator with the enemies of our country who want to see us absorbed into an undemocratic United States of Europe.
    The people are beginning to realise that they can influence their MP’s to look after their interests, so Cameron beware or you will end up on the wrong side of history.

  • Daniel Maris

    It’s a Yawnathon.

  • Curnonsky

    Is Clegg trying to push the Conservative Party into the arms of the UKIP? Does he imagine this will make his pathetic crew somehow a more attractive potential coalition partner to Labour? If so, a risky gamble (but then of course his Euro-sinecure beckons).

  • Thommo

    Has the EU budget ever been passedby its auditors yet? If it was a company it would be in court, its directors looking forward to jail. Thats where the unelected commissioners should be

  • Barbara Stevens

    Who really listens to this man anymore, anyone? I found some of his remarks insulting today against this country. Especially the remark about our flag. This shows how and what he thinks, his beliefs are more Europe whether we want it or not. We don’t want more we want less, and less we will have, much better still get out altogether. Cameron is playing a dangerous game, a game that will put him in danger of losing the next election. He should respond to what we want and not hold on to his own dreams. The EU dream is over for the UK, trade yes, anything else NO. I’m ashamed of the Conservatives for their lack of action and resistance to doing what the electorate want. How long will they allow Cameron to do this? He should dump Clegg as soon has he can for his own survival.

    • Robert_Eve

      Spot on Barbara.

    • EJ

      Clegg is a weasel – a traitor – a bed-wetter – the most horrid form of bleeding-heart self-hater imaginable. The kind of leftie hypocrite who wants money, protection and opportunity for himself and his – but would seek to deny it to anyone else IF they don’t belong to the deserving minorities in the wrong-headed hierarchy this privileged little squit so reveres…

      • telemachus

        But apart from that EJ he’s OK?

        • EJ


      • Colonel Mustard

        Beautifully put. The “man” is a pariah.

        • telemachus

          He tells it like it is
          No forked tongue like Cameron
          Still the more you folk pour your bile on him, the bigger the majority for the party of reason in 2015

  • David Lindsay

    Once Clegg is gone, the next Lib Dem Leader might be in favour of repatriation. Repatriation would be easily done; I have exactly 600 words on how and by whom, if anyone wants them.

    The present Labour Leader probably already is, since his choices as Shadow Chancellor and as Head of his Policy Review certainly are.

    But no Leader of the Conservative Party ever has been or ever will be. Last night, even a real terms reduction in British contributions to the EU Budget during the present cuts (so much for the claim that there aren’t any, by the way) could secure the support of only one in six Conservative MPs.

    But it secured the support of every Labour MP, without exception.

    • HellforLeather

      Where do we find the magic 600 words, you teaser?

      Your blog, no doubt? Looking to raise the hit rate for said blog?

      Article 50, Lisbon Treaty (50-odd letters of alphabet that was/were), rather than 600 words of yours, is actually the only legal way.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        Lindsay could easily make 600 words out of that. If you sneeze his ‘bless you’ is 600 words and invokes Herbert Morrison.

        • David Lindsay

          Why do frequent this site, Rhoda? You can’t possibly be a Spectator reader. Wouldn’t you be happier on popbitch?

          • Rhoda Klapp

            I have never read a copy of the Spectator. Or been to Popbitch. If you don’t like the criticism, try to be more concise and less verbose.

            • David Lindsay

              Well, someone else wrote that for you. Not only “concise”, but “verbose” as well. The boys’ tutor? The gardener? The chauffeur? Who was it?

              • telekuka

                Lindsay, a fellow after my own heart. Come for a love-in with me and telemachus

                • David Lindsay

                  I trust that you are enjoying, not only the permanent spectacle of people who cannot cope with anyone whom they can neither sack nor evict, but also the additional one of people who watched the bottom fall out of their world last night.

                  As some of us have been calmly pointing out since time immemorial, but as no one can any longer dispute, Labour is unanimously more Eurosceptical than five sixths of the Conservatives, while UKIP, which has only ever existed in order to turn the Conservative Party into UKIP so that UKIP members could feel able to rejoin it, has failed utterly and ought now to be dissolved.

              • Rhoda Klapp

                I am an oxfordshire housewife but rely on my grammar school 60’s education for all the words you are having trouble with.

      • David Lindsay

        You have to pay for them.

    • Fergus Pickering

      I thought you said that the revolt of Tories would fizzle out. You were wrong about that. As for Labour MPs they voted the way they did simply to embarrass the government. and because they were told to. They’d vote the other way at the drop of a hat. Listen to that twat Alexander if you can bear to. Oh, and Balls is Shadow Chancellor because Red Ed is afraid of him.

  • In2minds

    You could say Clegg is right that anything other than Article 50 is just
    dreaming. So Peter Bone is correct the coalition is a bad idea. Blame

  • Justathought

    He should be mindful that it’s only a short boat journey from parliament, through the Traitors Gate and into the Tower.

    • telemachus

      To feed the ravens?

  • HooksLaw

    Clegg’s words are equally absurd of course, why should a repatriation of powers be a false promise. And who is talking about a unilateral repatriation?
    Every word Clegg utters on the EU brings the extinction of his party ever closer.

    • HellforLeather

      For once I tend to agree with the tone of your message. You have steered clear of accusing others of “bile” — one of your favourite ripostes — so far.

      You might get the hang of blog site discussion eventually.

  • Heartless etc.,

    “It takes a worried man … to sing a worried song” – and boy, should he be worried – and the H2B with him.

    They take us for idiots – I’m sure of it.

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