Coalition Split Widening

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THE split in the coalition government deepened yesterday, with Deputy Prime Minister Clegg absenting himself from the House of Commons as Prime Minister Cameron stood up to justify his veto of treaty change at the eurozone summit last Friday.

Cameron’s statement began with Labour MPs shouting ‘where’s Clegg?’

Labour MP Kevin Brennan said: ‘Just for the sake of clarity, can the Prime Minister tell the House, where is the Deputy Prime Minister and why isn’t he here for this extremely important statement?’

Cameron replied: ‘The Deputy Prime Minister agreed the negotiating stance. I’m not responsible for his whereabouts and I’m sure he’s working extremely hard.’

Labour leader Miliband questioned why Clegg was not in the House of Commons, saying the PM could ‘not even persuade’ his deputy of the merits of his actions.

Cameron insisted he had agreed his negotiating stance with his LibDem partners before the summit and the two parties had to ‘put aside differences’ to work in the national interest.

Cameron opened his speech by telling the House of Commons: ‘The crisis in the eurozone is having a chilling effect on Britain’s economy.’

Cameron said vetoing the treaty was ‘not an easy thing to do but it was the right thing to do’.

Former LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it was ‘vital’ for the UK to remain an engaged member of the EU.

LibDem MP Martin Horwood said international investors needed reassuring that the UK remained ‘at the heart of European decision-making.’

Labour leader Miliband quoted Lord Heseltine, who said: ‘You can’t protect the interests of the City by floating off into the middle of the Atlantic.’

Conservative MP Sir Peter Tapsell said: ‘Without the long-delayed and still unpromised massive support of the European Central Bank and the Bundesbank the euro is doomed and as Chancellor Merkel has said the European Union with it.’

Miliband said the Prime Minister had gained nothing from the negotiations and had ‘given up his seat at the table’.

‘He has come back with a bad deal for Britain,’ he said. ‘Far from protecting our interests, he has left us without a voice.’

When Nadine Dorries accused deputy prime minister Clegg of ‘cowardice’ for refusing to sit beside him during the debate, Cameron replied: ‘We are in a coalition and in a coalition parties cannot achieve all the things they want to achieve.

‘The Liberal Democrats did agree to the negotiating strategy that we pursued.’

French president Sarkozy said yesterday that there are now clearly ‘two Europes’, following last week’s summit in which the UK vetoed EU treaty changes.

Nicolas Sarkozy said he and Chancellor Merkel of Germany did everything they could to persuade the UK to sign up to the EU deal to tackle the debt crisis.

He told Le Monde the agreement marked ‘the birth of a different Europe’.

Sarkozy said that there is one Europe ‘which wants more solidarity between its members and regulation, the other is attached solely to the logic of the single market’.