Tories will 'turn Britain into safe-house for criminals', warns Clegg

Lib Dem leader to target Cameron's Eurosceptic stance in next month's election

Nick Clegg will attempt to dispel suggestions that he is forging closer links with David Cameron by placing the Tories' controversial policy on Europe at the heart of the Liberal Democrats' election campaign.

The Lib Dem leader will claim this week that the Conservatives threaten to turn Britain into a "safe-house for criminals" by planning to withdraw from European cross-border policing agencies.

Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron appeared together with Gurkhas' rights campaigner Joanna Lumley earlier this month, prompting suggestions that the two leaders could work together in a coalition government if the next election results in a hung parliament.

But the Tory leader's hard-line Eurosceptic position, including his plan to withdraw from the European People's Party (EPP) grouping of MEPs after the 4 June poll, is to be targeted by the Lib Dems when they launch their European election campaign on Tuesday.

Mr Clegg will say Mr Cameron's plans to create a new grouping, including a Polish party that opposes gay rights, is a sign of the Conservatives' desire to "disengage" from Europe.

The Lib Dems have seized on comments by MEP Timothy Kirkhope, Tory spokesman on European justice policy, that the UK should not be a member of Eurojust, the body that helps to co-ordinate prosecutions across Europe.

The Lib Dems also claim the Tories are becoming sceptical of Europol, the cross-border policing body.

On Thursday, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, will launch a dossier claiming that closer co-operation in the EU on drugs, child trafficking, hi-tech crime, terrorism and illegal immigration would be at risk if the Tories won power.

A senior Lib Dem source said: "David Cameron's approach to international crime is symptomatic of the Tory approach to all European issues. Isolationism comes before pragmatic co-operation, ideology before the safety of the public.

"The Tories would rather turn Britain into a safe-house for criminals than co-operate with other countries. What better evidence that David Cameron and his party are unfit to govern?"

But in an interview with The Independent on Sunday, the Tory leader denied he was disengaging from the EU as a result of his withdrawal from the EPP: "The fact is, we believe in being members of the European Union, we think that's good for Britain, we support free trade and co-operation between the nation states and the European Union, we are not anti-European co-operation.

"[But] we think Europe needs to change its agenda from being obsessed with institutional reform and endlessly taking further powers unto itself.

"I think actually forming a group of like-minded parties across Europe that share the elements of this agenda is a sensible thing to do."

He insisted that President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel "understand" his position and that the Conservative Party and its new grouping will be "good neighbours rather than unhappy tenants".

Mr Cameron added: "Of course, in any group, you may not agree with all your partners about everything. But the key thing is, on the issue of the shape and development of the European Union, are you basically in agreement?"

A source close to Mr Huhne said: "The Conservatives like to think of themselves as the 'tough on crime' party. But their failure to bring crime-rates down in the '80s and '90s exposed this as a myth. Crime doubled under their last tenure in government. Today, David Cameron is still struggling to articulate his approach to crime. Yet when it comes to cross-border crime, Cameron is sending out some clear signals. In the field of European police and judicial co-operation, the Conservatives are increasingly hostile. Indeed, it is difficult to see how a Conservative government so antagonistic towards Europe could continue the level of co-operation that exists today.

"The Conservative Party has reached the point where it now puts ideological opposition to Europe before catching dangerous criminals. Dogma now trumps pragmatic co-operation in the fight against crime."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'