United Kingdom

Ruling coalition starts to fracture over Europe


Fractures appeared in the governing coalition again this week. Earlier in the week a group of Conservative Party, the main governing party, MPs rebelled against the government and voted with the opposition Labour Party for Prime Minister David Cameron to push for a real terms cut in the European Union (EU) budget.

The move has put the prime minister and Chancellor George Osborne in a difficult position as they head to Brussels to enter into negotiations on next year’s EU budget. The 2012 EU budget stands at €147 billion a 3.5% increase on last year. Further planned increases will take that to more like a 5% increase by 2020. It is this which the Conservative MPs are saying is wrong at a time when every country is making its citizens cut back under austerity measures.

If that weren’t bad enough, the prime minister then found himself being attacked by his Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg for proposing a repatriation of powers to the UK from the EU.

In a speech to the Chatham House, Nick Clegg described the proposal as follows:

“I want to focus on the proposal doing the rounds that the best way to improve the UK’s position in Europe is to renegotiate the terms of our relationship with the rest of the EU. We should opt out of the bad bits; stay opted in to the good bits; and the way to do that is a repatriation of British powers.

That seems very reasonable; in fact, it’s a pretty seductive offer – who would disagree with that?

But, look a little closer. Because a grand, unilateral repatriation of powers might sound appealing… but, in reality, it is a false promise, wrapped in a Union Jack.”

The full text of Nick Clegg’s speech can be found here.

Conservative MPs emboldened by this week’s successes look set to put more pressure on the Chancellor and Prime Minister. Added to this is the junior party in the Coalition led by Nick Clegg being prepared to openly disagree with the prime minister, all of which hastens the possibility of a break-up of the coalition and an early election.

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