PM tells Clegg to 'pick up the pieces' in Europe
Stormy Cabinet session sees Lib Dem ministers attack Cameron for negotiating tactics
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 14 December 2011
A drive to "pick up the pieces" will be led by Nick Clegg following the collapse of last week's European Union summit. But there were new strains in the Coalition after Liberal Democrat ministers criticised David Cameron's negotiating tactics during a heated Cabinet discussion yesterday.
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Climate Change Secretary, complained that his party should have been consulted during the talks in Brussels which ended with Britain in a minority of one last Friday. He contrasted Mr Cameron's approach with his own during the global climate change talks in Durban, saying he cleared his lines with other ministers as the meeting progressed.
Mr Huhne, a former MEP, is said to have interrupted the Prime Minister twice as he summed up yesterday's 50-minute Cabinet debate, protesting that Mr Cameron had not addressed his points directly. Last night Mr Huhne went public with his criticism of Mr Cameron. "Isolation is not a good posture in any negotiation," he said. "Playing 'Billy No Mates' is no fun and is not effective in defending British interests." He warned: "Businesses [abroad] need to know that we have influence in delivering the single market. If they feel, sitting in a boardroom in Shanghai, that we don't have influence then it is very likely they will be less attracted to investing here."
Mr Clegg told Liberal Democrat MPs and peers last night the row would not bring the Coalition to an end. "The Government will carry on until 2015. Full stop," he said.
Other Liberal Democrat ministers – Mr Clegg, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore – told the Cabinet they were unhappy that Mr Cameron had wielded the veto to block an EU-wide treaty aimed at rescuing the single currency. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is understood to have expressed concern about the possible impact on business and foreign investment in Britain if the country is viewed as not fully committed to the EU. But Tory ministers defended Mr Cameron's decision to veto the proposed treaty, arguing that his hand in future negotiations would have been weakened if he had backed down.
After the meeting, both Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers stressed they were now looking forward rather than back at the summit. In future, the Liberal Democrats are expected to be consulted more fully during important EU meetings. Mr Cameron said: "We had a very good Cabinet meeting this morning where we talked about those challenges... and I think the Coalition will come out of this very strongly."
Following Mr Clegg's decision not to attend Mr Cameron's Commons statement on the summit on Monday, the Prime Minister appears to have offered him a key role in rebuilding Britain's bridges with other EU members. Mr Clegg will host a meeting of Liberal ministers from around Europe next month to discuss Britain's relationship with the EU and the eurozone crisis.
There are signs that some of the other 26 leaders realise it would be better to get Britain back on board as a formal EU treaty might carry more credibility with the financial markets. But Joseph Daul, a French MEP who chairs the Parliament's main centre-right group, said the UK was "selfish" and should lose the £2.7bn rebate on its EU budget contributions.
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nathan Cirillo: Final pictures emerge of soldier moments before he was shot dead by Ottowa gunman
Ottawa shootings: Terror strikes Canadian capital as attacks leave one soldier and one suspect dead
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Psychology An en...
competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...
£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This new opportunity has responsibilities des...
£19200 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...