Theresa May has a history of 'pandering' to prejudice against Europe, Nick Clegg says

The former Deputy Prime Minister recounted one incident during the Coalition government

Jon Stone
Friday 02 September 2016 18:44
Prime Minister Theresa May views a car on a production line
Prime Minister Theresa May views a car on a production line

Theresa May has a history of “pandering” to prejudice over Europe, Nick Clegg has warned.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper Mr Clegg said many in the Conservative party had a “cardboard-cutout” view of Europe and that the Prime Minister had taken steps to exploit this.

The former Liberal Democrat leader recounted one incident while during the 2010 coalition government where he draw up a report in tandem with Ms May’s team.

“She kept saying there was this terrible ‘abuse’ of freedom of movement, when simply describing EU citizens exercising their right to come and work in the UK,” the staunch pro-European told the newspaper.

“They tried to insert statistics suggesting the number of UK citizens living and working in other EU countries was half a million lower than any other mainstream estimate.”

The former Deupty Prime Minister said Ms May was attempting to “pander to the cardboard-cutout prejudices that large parts of her party have about Europe”.

“That’s clearly what she and her team were doing when they were trying to insert erroneous facts into this report on freedom of movement,” he added.

In 2015 the Prime Minister, then the Home Secretary, made a widely-criticised speech in which she referred to some EU immigrants as criminals.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat former Deputy Prime Minister

She was also criticised as Home Secretary when she dispatched a series of vans around Britain telling undocumented migrants to "go home or face arrest".

During the same interview Mr Clegg claimed the former Chancellor George Osborne had deliberately cut welfare spending regardless of the consequences.

“Welfare for Osborne was just a bottomless pit of savings, and it didn’t really matter what the human consequences were, because focus groups had shown that the voters they wanted to appeal to were very anti-welfare, and therefore there was almost no limit to those anti-welfare prejudices,” he told the Guardian.

This week Downing Street signaled that full freedom of movement between Britain and the EU was likely to come to and end after Brexit complete.

Ms May this weekend will go to China to explain the consequences Brexit vote to other world leaders.

In the first major international summit she is expected to tell the G20 that Britain is “open for business” despite the vote, which is perceived negatively by some observers abroad.

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