Coffee House

Nick Clegg: There is not a cigarette paper between me and the PM on EU budget

1 November 2012

The morning after the government’s defeat on the EU budget, Nick Clegg has offered his own advice on the British negotiating position. The Deputy Prime Minister gave a speech to Chatham House in which he said that pushing for a real-terms cut in the budget – which is what 307 MPs including 53 Conservative rebels voted for last night – is ‘unrealistic’. Clegg framed his attack on this negotiating position by focusing on Labour rather than Tory MPs. He said:

‘Yet it was Labour who agreed to the last long-term EU budget settlement, which saw a major jump in EU spending and lost part of the UK’s rebate in exchange for virtually no real EU spending reforms. And British taxpayers have suffered the consequences ever since, with our net contributions going from less than €3bn in 2008 to more than €7bn in 2011. Who were two of the Labour MPs to vote for it? Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. Who was the Europe Minister? Douglas Alexander.

‘Their change of heart is dishonest, it’s hypocritical. And worst of all, Labour’s plan would cost the taxpayer more, not less. Because in pushing a completely unrealistic position on the EU budget – one that is miles away from any other country’s position – Labour would have absolutely no hope of getting a budget deal agreed.’

Clegg emphasised that he and the Prime Minister are ‘united’ in holding ‘the toughest position of any European country’ in calling for a real-terms freeze, telling the audience during the ensuing question-and-answer session that there was ‘not a cigarette paper’ between himself and the PM.

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But where he was keen to distance himself from the Tories was on the issue of Britain’s position in Europe, and the current debate over which European law and order measures Britain should permanently opt out of. He said:

‘The Government has said our current thinking is to opt out of them en masse, before seeking to rejoin some. But I want to be absolutely clear: a final decision has not been taken, and I will only agree to doing that if I am 100% satisfied we can opt back in to the measures needed to protect British citizens, and if I am convinced we are not creating waste and duplication, incurring unnecessary costs…

‘And to anyone who says we don’t need these EU measures to fight crime and terrorism effectively, I say prove it.Prove it to the police, the intelligence agencies, the lawyers, the victims of crime charities. Prove it to the people who deal day in day out with the worst criminals imaginable. Because my position is clear: I will not ask them to protect the British people with one hand tied behind their back.’

One of the most impassioned interventions in last night’s debate came from Clegg’s colleague Chris Huhne, who did not bother to disguise his fury with the Tory rebels. The former Energy Secretary makes very rare appearances in the Chamber these days, but last night his contribution to the debate was unmissable. He told Peter Bone that this was ‘about realism versus unreality’. He added:

‘As the honourable gentleman knows, if someone goes into a negotiation telling people exactly what they are going to do, with no room for movement whatsoever, why on earth should they bother talking to them? We heard the reality from the honourable member for Stone [Bill Cash] and that is that he, like the honourable member for Vauxhall [Kate Hoey], wants a crisis for the European Union. This has nothing whatsoever to do with these negotiations.’

David Cameron will be giving his own speech in the next few weeks on Britain and Europe. Those involved in the Corby by-election hope it will be before voters go to the polling stations on 15 November. In this he will need to address this desire in his party for what Chris Huhne called a ‘crisis for the European Union’ in order to quell the crisis of confidence that eurosceptics are experiencing in their leader’s position on Europe.

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Show comments
  • Andrew Paul Shakespeare

    Oh bollocks. We all know that politicians lie, but should they not at least attempt to be convincing?

  • Barbara Stevens

    I don’t think Huhne’s intervention will make much difference, like Clegg he’s yesterday’s man. The political scene has moved on since Huhm’s popularity, which is now ebbed. Cleggs own seat should fall at the next election, go on make my day Sheffield.
    I thought some of Clegg’s comments offensive to those who feel for this country, are patriotic, he talked as though aligning us to the EU is a done deal, and no chance of pulling away. The electorate might have something to say about that. We still have some democray left, its up to us to make it work for us, by not voting for Lib Dems; and for those who will grant us what we want, our freedom to choose our own destiny.

  • pilsden

    Here’s an idea put the overseas aid and the eu budget into the same box because they are two sides of the same coin and restrict the amount to our international agreements.Beneficiary countries of the EU budget are in some cases as poor as those receiving the aid budget.Use the money saved for a funded care system .

  • Dimoto

    Merkel wants a freeze and is openly inviting Cameron to join her to push it through.
    Both British and German analysts have pointed out why deadlock will inevitably lead to HIGHER payments.

    As for Labour, Balls was thrown into a panic by the GDP figures.
    This was his (typical) response – a silly stunt to distract and cause Cameron some short-term negative headlines.
    That’s all. Go back to sleep UKIPpers.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    They say they are gonna reform it, they never do, it is never quite the right time, and to push our own interest would result in upsetting our pratners (accidental misspelling, but I rather like it) and losing our vital influence. I’ve been hearing the same sort of arguments for decades. It is never the right time, we never get any powers back and the ratchet continues. And yet our politicians continue to play the game.

    There is no mechanism whereby we can get a renegotiation of powers. The others do not need to give us anything, because they know we can’t get enough of 27 countries on side to get what we want without a free-for-all. Can’t be done. We must be able to pull the pin of exit if we have to in order to get anything. Now, personally, I’d rather just leave on good terms negotiated as part of an article 50 application. We are 14% of the GDP of the EU, we don’t have to take norwegian terms. We can stand alone. Plenty of countries do, are we now so trepid as to have to hide with the rest of the sheep? Do we have to go on living in our old bedroom rather than move out and get our own place?

    • David Lindsay

      Just enact primary legislation restoring the supremacy of British over EU law. Easy.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        I think you’ll find that a lot of what we call EU law is actually enacted here. What you propose is not enough. If we went our own way on which EU rules to choose we would be punished by the EU. And rightly so. More honest to leave in a mutually agreed way. Not just quit, not storm out, just apply under article 50. because we can’t agree to ever closer union. If you espouse staying in, which is a quite reasonable position albeit wrong, you ought to have a belief in ever closer union and defend it here (I speak not to you David but to those here who don’t want to leave the EU.

        • David Lindsay

          I have exactly 600 words on how this would indeed be enough, and on how (and by whom) it could be done. Does anyone want it?

  • anyfool

    Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister gave a speech to Chatham House in which he said that pushing for a real-terms cut in the budget is unrealistic, he is probably right inasmuch it would be them doing the pushing, you only have to look at our own mythical cuts to prove this point. time for someone to put a match to that cigarette paper.

  • s_o_b

    Quoth the Cleggster – ….”‘And to anyone who says we don’t need these EU measures to fight crime and terrorism effectively, I say prove it.”…………

    In other words, Clegg’s default position is that the EU should have control over our law and order, unless it can be proved that the nation state is more capable.

    Interesting, but I would venture to suggest that most people would take a view that the burden of proof should be the other way round.

  • @PhilKean1

    The Liberals’ economic case for staying shackled to the EU yoke

    (1) – EU goes broke, or Britain leaves, WHO PAYS CLEGG’S GENEROUS EU PENSION ?

    (2) – An estimated 2.5 million Spanish, French, Polish, Romanian and other EU workers DEPEND on working in Britain.

    (3) – How will the EU replace the lost UK Budget contribution so it can fund its Federal ambitions?

    (4) – The UK is the EU’s largest luxury goods and car market.

    (5) – The EU depends of Britain’s military expenditure to subsidise the Socialist spending programs of the other Principalities.

    (6) – The UK Government DEPENDS on EU workers driving down UK wages in order to bear down on inflation.

    (7) – The EU provides extra employment opportunities for British politicians and civil servants.


  • William Blakes Ghost

    Why bother even reading what the quisling Clegg has to say anyway? He has always been in favour of selling us out for a seat at the table of the parasite elite.

  • Hugh Janus

    We don’t need advice on negotiation from the likes of Cleggy, although I would concede that Call Me Dave probably does. It seems to me that none of the politicians with whom we are currently infested would be able to negotiate extra sweets from a doting grandmother, never mind represent British interests in that profligate, corrupt and unaccountable organisation that is slowly but surely strangling the life out of this country.

  • David Lindsay

    Well, of course there isn’t. Who ever suggested that there was? The split is between the Coalition (a freeze, if we can get one) and Labour (a real terms cut, or no deal). Which side are you on?

    • HooksLaw

      I am not on the side of europhile labour thats for sure.

      • David Lindsay

        And what, pray, is “Europhile Labour”?

        Obviously not the party that wants Ed Balls to be Chancellor instead of George Osborne. Obviously not the party the Policy Review of which is being headed by Jon Cruddas.

        Obviously not the party about one third of whose MPs voted for an outspoken advocate of outright withdrawal to chair them. Obviously not the party whose MPs send three Eurosceptics out of three, including one who has voted against every Treaty since the first one, to its National Executive Committee; the only other nominated candidate was no keener on the EU.

        And obviously not the party whose every MP, every single one, has just voted for a real terms cut in British contributions to the EU Budget, whereas only one sixth of Conservative MPs did so.

  • Deepsnoozer

    Between Cameron and Clegg, it’s like having ‘Take That’ running the county!!
    It was better when grown ups used to do it..

  • Robert_Eve

    I was surprised that Huhne wasn’t in handcuffs.

  • alexsandr

    cameron and clegg. both equally wrong on europe.

    • David Lindsay

      But not the only options on the ballot paper.

  • @PhilKean1

    Which could be another reason why 53 Decent Tory patriots didn’t trust Cameron

    There is NO danger greater than allowing a situation where Labour are forced to share office with the Liberals after Cameron loses the 2015 General Election.

    Just a taste of the damage the Liberals would pressure a power-hungry Labour Party to inflict.

    (1) – Surrender Britain’s permanent UN seat to the EU?
    (2) – Unilateral nuclear disarmament.
    (3) – Change the electoral system to PR
    (4) – Abolition of the House of Lords
    (5) – Adopt the Euro
    (6) – Abandon NATO and join an EU equivalent.
    (7) – Sign up to Federal EU economic and political Governance.
    (8) – State-funding of political parties.

    Last night gave us a clue to how we may prevent that irreversible damage.
    If the 53 Pro-Sovereignty Tory patriots could elect a leader and be in a position to offer Labour THEIR support, for little price, then it could allow the Conservative party the time it needs to disinfect itself of Liberals, including Cameron, and give itself some chance of winning a majority in 2020.

    This is serious. If Miliband doesn’t win an overall majority, and looks to the Liberals to help him form a Government, then it truly is game-over for the British nation.


    • Russell

      Maybe if 53 or more joined UKIP, Cameron would begin to get the message. He seems to be as thick as a plank regarding what the electorate think about the EU and the £billions the UK pays to the EU.

      • David Lindsay

        He understands it perfectly. He just doesn’t agree with it. Nor do five sixths of his MPs; yes, the rebellion really was that small. Whereas, manifestly, every Labour MP does.

        UKIP, indeed! As Peter Hitchens calls it, “Dad’s Army”. Don’t be silly.

        • BuBBleBus

          Too early to dismiss UKIP, unless you are a droning Lindsay that is. Also Dad’s Army never lost a battle, so Dad’s Army 1 Lindsay Drone nil.

          • David Lindsay

            UKIP has had 20 years, or as good as, to turn the Conservative Party into its own Eurosceptical fantasy of that party’s past. It has failed miserably, and comments on sites such as this make it perfectly clear that its supporters will now tell themselves anything in order to be able to go home to the federalist-as-ever Tories before they die.

        • @PhilKean1


          UKIP, that Sword of Damocles hanging over Cameron’s head, will make sure that Cameron’s Party are removed from office in 2015.

          They were responsible fro denying Cameron 20 seats in 2010. And with them at least doubling their support in 2015, only a fool would dismiss them.

          If Dave wants to change that, then he knows what to do.

          • David Lindsay

            “UKIP, that Sword of Damocles hanging over Cameron’s head, will make sure that Cameron’s Party are removed from office in 2015”

            That would have happened even if UKIP had never existed. In fact, there is nothing, absolutely nothing at all, that would have been any different if there had never been any UKIP.

            • @PhilKean1

              What are you talking about?

              Where would disaffected Tories, and now quite a few Labour supporters go to demonstrate their displeasure at the pro-EU and unlimited immigration policies of the 3 main parties?

              UKIP provided that focus; a pressure group, if you wish. 1 million voters in 2010, and possible 2.5 million in 2015.
              Look, don’t just UKIP’s potential success by the number of seats they achieve. I doubt they are even expecting to win one.

              The voters just need a way of showing Britain’s treacherous politicians that there is a price to pay for lies and betrayal.

              • David Lindsay

                One million votes resulting in what, exactly?

                Seats won is who we count these things in this country. And UKIP has never won one. Not one. The Greens, also very anti-EU, have won one. Respect has won two, even if they have both been won by the same person, no friend of the EU. But UKIP has never even managed that.

                2.5 million votes in 2015, indeed! For internal reasons, UKIP will be lucky to exist at all by 2015.

    • David Lindsay

      If you believed in national sovereignty, then you would want to leave NATO. In any case, NATO, like every American Administration since the 1940s, is fanatically pro-EU. Even to the point of bombing into existence artificial statelets with flags modelled on the EU one and with EU membership as their dearest aspiration. In Eastern Europe, accession to each is rightly recognised as accession to both.

    • HooksLaw

      It comes to somethjing when it take people like Lindsay has to point out to you the reality of sovereignty and ‘patriotism’ by pointing out how we are integrated into the modern world by alliances like NATO.

      It’s also quite salutary that you pour out words like ‘patriot’. I love my country and they and you do not speak for me.

      You are just a typical mad xenophobe – typical of the type that gossip together on these pages. Do you really think your mad notions would find favour in mainstream Britain?

      53 right wing tories allying themselves with left wing pro Europe labour? What a dim daft dysfunctional lot you hopeless loony tunes are.

      • @PhilKean1

        No problem with NATO, the UN and the WTO.

        However, the IMF is now a near wholly-run subsidiary of the EU.

        • David Lindsay

          You can’t have any of therm without all of them.

  • Vulture

    Why do you give the Lib Dems the time of day? And what are they doing with their pompous pontifications about Europe and principles?
    They are really in no position to lecture anyone.
    They are an unprincipled desperate rabble bound for the knackers yard just as soon as the voters get their chance to destroy them. Clegg’s next post will be with his EU mates and I sincerely trust that Huhne will soon keep his long delayed appointment with Her Majesty’s Prison service.

    • David Lindsay

      “Why do you give the Lib Dems the time of day?”

      They are in the Cabinet. A situation which the people running the Conservative Party openly regard as permanent even if they themselves were to win an overall majority, which they are not.

    • HooksLaw

      So Clegg, not unreasonably, points out the lies deceit and hypocrisy of labours position and lo, the Pavlov Vulture barks.
      Blind and blinkered as usual.

      The second part of Cleggs remarks show exactly why eurosceptics need to vote tory and not undermine the only party that could change our relationship with Europe for the better.

      • David Lindsay

        Now I know that you are a spoof.

    • telemachus

      Forget the Lib Dems.

      They have lost a quarter of their members in just one year.

      The huge drop in 2011, from over 65,000 members to just under 49,000, was revealed in accounts the party filed with the Electoral Commission in August. It is its biggest single-year drop in membership ever.

      The figures cover the first full year of the party’s coalition with the Tories. Reports in June showed its youth wing, Liberal Youth, lost more than half of its 6,000 members last year.

      And in Lib Dem minister Sarah Teather’s constituency, Brent , 42 percent of all members walked out.

      The party also fell to an all-time low of fewer than 3,000 councillors.

      A busted flush

      • telekuka

        come the revolution!

        • telemachus

          Now you mention it

          It sometimes needs radical action to achieve just ends

          I am much in favour of a spell of French Style benign despotism

          I have long admired the Jacobin Radicals

  • Heartless etc.,

    There is not a cigarette paper between me and the PM on EU budget

    Says it all, – and from the mouth of one of the two conjoined creatures.

    • Ostrich (occasionally)

      As a non-smoker, shouldn’t his simile be a condom thickness?

  • Dicky14

    Is this not just an episode in what Tebbit argued a fortnight ago that Cameron is a teenager in a grown up world, that his inexperience has brought him to this pretty pass? One can’t blame Labour for opportunism, it’s in the job description – but Cameron has failed once again over an irrelevant vote. It really is quite pathetic.

    • justathought

      I agree this was totally foreseeable and therefore avoidable. There is still time for Cameron to use this to strengthen his hand as they are on notice that the budget must be cut.

  • Justathought

    Indeed there is not a cigarette paper between them, and therein lies the problem.

    Huhne and his Europhiles must accept that there is a now a mandate from parliament for a reduction in the budget. It is Huhne who needs to face reality.

  • William Haworth

    Clegg is the purest definition on what it means to be on the wrong side of history.

  • Adrian Drummond

    Most thoughtful and circumspect people would like to lance the European boil and bring matters speedily to a close. Huhne may not like this but the strength of argument is not on his side.

  • True Bred Pomponian

    Indeed there is not, because, as we all know, Cameron has no intention of forcing through a cut in the European budget.

    • David Lindsay

      Vote instead for a party whose every MP has just voted for one. What possible excuse have you to do anything else?

      • Rhoda Klapp

        When their policy is stated to be anything remotely euro-realist maybe they, they would not. But then they are not euro-realist, they dare not touch the problems, and please don’t give me another histroy lesson running from the Tolpuddle martyrs to the Taff Vale dispute to Michael Foot trying to prove the current Labour party can be trusted on any thing at all. Their actions belie your faith.

        • David Lindsay

          You mean last night’s vote?

          • Rhoda Klapp

            No, the policy. A stated policy. It is evident to the whole world except you that last night’s vote was a shameful political manouevre aimed at embarrasing the government. If there are labour members for UK exit, let them declare it and put it in a manifesto. This is about our country’s independence, not some cheap tribalist political stunt.

            • David Lindsay

              The stated policy is a referendum on continued EU membership. That, and a real terms reduction in British contributions to the EU Budget. Both of which have been repeatedly and definitively ruled out by the Leaders of both other parties. A clear choice in 2015. Which choice will you make, and why?

              • Rhoda Klapp

                I reject your tribe, and the others. I will vote on policy and person, not stupid tribal entrenched positions. However, the useless apparatchik tory in my constituency will win. He did not rebel. Labour do not even bother to put a flyer through the door here.

                • David Lindsay

                  I have no tribe. Or several, like my biological background, depending on how you look at it.

                  What if there is a Labour leaflet next time, promising a referendum on continued EU membership, and a real terms reduction in British contributions to the EU Budget?

                  What, if any, excuse would you have not to vote for that candidate, who would definitely be in a better position than the UKIP one, since there is no seat in which the reverse is the case?

                • Rhoda Klapp

                  Only if he and his ilk had said that kind of thing before and actually gone to court to prove that manifesto promises are not promises at all would I have cause to doubt.

                  Or if he was a politician.

                • David Lindsay

                  You won’t have it when I point out in detail that he and his ilk most definitely have said that kind of thing before.

                  Really, you deserve whatever you get.

                • Rhoda Klapp

                  They said we would have a referendum on Lisbon and used a form of words to deny us. The Labour party did break its promise. The tories did not, although they broke the spirit of it. Both parties always cheat on the EU. You will need to do a lot more to persuade me that one of them is sincere now. (The Labour party is the most reliable and trustworthy party I know, they ALWAYS let you down.)

                • David Lindsay

                  You deserve whatever you get.

                  There is no one more tribal than post-Thatcher Tories, of course. With their hatred of the NHS and what have you, they are so far removed from mainstream opinion that they have to huddle together and spit at passers by.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  What a silly remark. Unworthy of you.

                • Rhoda Klapp

                  You at least take a little longer than hookslaw to get offensive when you are losing on substance. You are wrong to make assumptions about my politics based on your own prejudices

  • peterbuss

    Good stuff Isobel.We don’t always agree but on this we do ! Cheers.

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