LONDON (AP) — Deep cracks are emerging in Britain’s coalition government, with one of its top officials lashing out at Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday for deciding to block European Union treaty changes designed to save the euro.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the decision “bad for Britain” and said he is “bitterly disappointed” over the outcome of last week’s EU summit, during which Britain was the only nation to reject a tighter fiscal alliance in the bloc aimed at ending Europe’s worst financial crisis in generations.
He said he now will do everything he can “to ensure this setback does not become a permanent divide” in Britain’s coalition government.
After the EU summit in Brussels, Mr. Clegg publicly backed Mr. Cameron’s decision to reject the proposed new European treaty because it didn’t contain adequate safeguards for Britain and wasn’t in the country’s interests.
But during an interview with BBC television on Sunday, Mr. Clegg said that when Mr. Cameron told him of his decision during a 4 a.m. phone call on Friday, “I said this was bad for Britain. I made it clear that it was untenable for me to welcome it.”
Mr. Cameron will comment on the summit in the House of Commons on Monday. Ahead of his remarks, Mr. Clegg’s criticism of Mr. Cameron’s decision on national TV raised questions about the viability of the coalition government, though one analyst said it is not in danger of collapsing.
Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, accused Mr. Clegg of “trying to have his cake and eat it, too,” by going on TV to disagree with Mr. Cameron but insisting that the coalition will stand.
“Cameron’s got them over a barrel,” Mr. Fielding said of Mr. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats because they joined the coalition as a junior party and need time in government to establish political credibility.
The coalition has an 84-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons. One of its biggest ideological differences involves EU rules and regulations and the degree to which they affect government decisions and London’s standing as Europe’s top financial market.
The Conservatives long have contained many so-called “euro-skeptics,” while the Lib Dems are the most pro-EU of any major British party, including the opposition Labor Party.
But Mr. Fielding said that “however embarrassed and humiliated” the Liberal Democrats may feel by the direction of the government, they left themselves “no alternative” but to go along with it by agreeing to form the coalition after finishing third in the last national election.
Some experts have questioned Mr. Cameron’s decision to take such a hard line at the EU summit, saying he could leave the U.K. isolated by abandoning its long-standing strategy of acting both within and outside the bloc.View Entire Story
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