'A European referendum is a question of when, not if': Nick Clegg takes surprisingly bold EU stance at Prime Minister's Questions

Lib Dem leader hardens party's commitment to giving public a say

Nick Clegg has suggested that as he hardened the Liberal Democrats' commitment to giving the public a say.

Standing in for David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Clegg surprised MPs by saying: "It is a question of when, not if, because the rules [of the EU] are bound to change."

At the 2010 election, the Lib Dems promised an in/out referendum if there were a significant change in the relationship between the UK and the EU. Since then, the Coalition has brought in a law guaranteeing a referendum in the event of a significant transfer of power from Britain to Brussels.

Mr Clegg said: "We should have a referendum on Europe when the rules change. We said that at the time of the Lisbon Treaty. We said that in our manifesto. We have legislated on it and we will say it again."

The Lib Dems will not support Conservative plans to bring in a law before the 2015 election promising an in/out referendum by 2017, as David Cameron has promised. They argue that it would be wrong to commit to a referendum before negotiations on a new settlement with Europe have even begun. But Mr Clegg's statement is a sign that he does not want his party to be portrayed by the Tories as opposed to giving the public a say on Europe. It could put pressure on Labour to follow suit in its 2015 election manifesto.

In the Commons, Mr Clegg was taunted by Tory MPs, some of whom brandished a 2008 Lib Dem leaflet in which he declared: "It's time for a real referendum on Europe" at the time of the Lisbon Treaty negotiations.

One Tory, Edward Leigh, asked Mr Clegg whether the man pictured in the leaflet was "an impostor or just a hypocrite". Andrew Turner said his Isle of Wight constituents would feel "betrayed" if the Lib Dems did not support an amendment to the Queen's Speech, being debated today, regretting the absence of an EU referendum. It has been backed by 92 MPs, mostly Conservatives.

The Deputy Prime Minister hit back at his Tory critics, accusing them of "constantly shifting the goalposts" on a referendum. He said the Commons had spent 100 hours debating the Bill which gave a legal guarantee of a referendum if powers were transferred to Brussels. "We on this side should go out and promote what is in the Queen's Speech, not spending days bemoaning what is not in the Queen's Speech," said Mr Clegg. "I think we should stick to the priorities of the British people, which is growth and jobs."

Video: Nick Clegg on oil prices

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
premier league
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam