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.
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
US blames Russia after rocket attacks in Ukraine kill at least 30
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Railway Museum, the largest of its ...
£250 - £300 per day: Sauce Recruitment: (Rolling) 3 month contractA global en...
£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...