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UK Politics

EU must reform or face decline, says Nick Clegg


The European Union must not become a series of "clubs within clubs", Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.


"Europe as a whole is at its strongest when it moves as one convoy rather than several disjointed caravans," he insisted during a visit to Brussels.

But Mr Clegg said it would be a "caricature" to say that the strengthening of the 17 eurozone countries would only come at the expense of the other ten member states.

It was feasible, he said, for the eurozone to "beef up" economic surveillance in the wake of the crisis "without creating a gulf between those inside and those outside".

Mr Clegg had talks with EU Commissioners including European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and then warned MEPs in a speech to the European Parliament that Europe faces a future of "perpetual decline" unless it reforms to make itself more competitive.

Before delivering the speech he said it was vital to look at the longer term problems of achieving competitiveness and growth.

And he insisted the answers were not to be found in endless Brussels meetings.

"We can't get into a protracted, introverted bout of institutional navel-gazing," said Mr Clegg.

"We must not get bogged down by having heads of government locked into windowless rooms for months on end."

Responding to growing concerns that the economic crisis will result in an inner core of the 17 eurozone countries increasingly formulating policy without consulting the other ten, he said: "The EU 27 must work more closely together. I do not want clubs within clubs."