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Nick Clegg: Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to stand up for Britain's place in Europe

If Ukip wins, it could wreck the recovery and destroy British jobs
  • @nick_clegg

This column appears in the Tuesday 11th February edition of The i Paper

In 100 days Britain goes to the polls in the European elections. I appreciate that's not usually a sentence to get the heart racing. But this May, a hugely important question is at stake. When it comes to Europe, are you in or out?

Ukip has been coming up on the rails in British politics for years and it sees this May as its breakthrough moment. Mainstream politicians have made the mistake in the past of not taking UKIP, or the people who say they will vote for it, seriously. That time has long passed. Ukip is for real. But if it were to win this May and take Britain a further step towards self- imposed exile from Europe, it could wreck the recovery and destroy British jobs.

The Conservatives won't tell you about the risks of EU exit because, deep down, many of them want to pull us out of Europe too. And Labour won't tell you either because it thinks you don't want to hear it. It doesn't have the courage of their convictions and won't lift a finger to keep us in.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are seemingly content to let UKIP lead the debate and edge us all slowly towards a state of hopeless isolation. Only the Liberal Democrats are fighting to keep Britain in Europe. 'In' for the sake of more than three million British jobs linked to trade with the EU. 'In' so that we can work with our neighbours to tackle cross-border crime and fight climate change. 'In' because we know that Britain can only stand tall in the world if we stand tall in our own back yard.

Leaving the EU puts billions of pounds of investment in Britain at risk. British companies could be hit by new export taxes. British businesses know that alone, without unrestricted access to the world's biggest single market, we will be diminished. We will no longer have a seat at the top table. We will not have the clout to lead in Europe and the world in the fight against climate change as we do right now. And while Ukip puts all this at risk, the Conservatives cannot resist the temptation to follow suit and the Labour Party cannot pluck up the courage to speak up.

I understand why Nigel Farage's brand of pub-friendly Euroscepticism is appealing. It plays on the fear of the 'other', the fear of change, the belief that someone else must be to blame for the ills of the modern world. It offers beguilingly simple solutions: pull up the drawbridge, close the door and turn our back on the world. It is an appealing offer but one that is extremely dangerous.

Only the Liberal Democrats are prepared to take the fight to UKIP and stand up for Britain's place in Europe. We need your help this May. If you want to keep Britain safe and strong, a leader not a follower in the world, we have 100 days. Are you in?

Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister