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Monday, October 07, 2013

Clegg says pulling out of Europe would be economic suicide

The Independent on Sunday reports on a highly significant speech to be given by the Deputy Prime Minister next week in which he will commit the Liberal Democrats to a referendum on membership of the European Union and a strong campaign to keep Britain an active member.

He will say that it is no longer a question of if but when we have a vote. He will also warn Tory Eurosceptics that leaving the EU would be "economic suicide". The paper  points out that Clegg's announcement leaves Labour as the only party to not back an in-out referendum, with Ed Miliband appearing isolated on the issue:

In one of the most strident speeches on Europe that Mr Clegg has made, he will warn that the Tory plan to renegotiate powers back from Brussels ahead of a 2017 vote is "a seductive offer", but one that is "deeply flawed and bound to unravel", adding: "It collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions.

"For many on the right, this... is just a smokescreen for exit. Politics masquerading as patriotism. It's a short-sighted political calculation that could jeopardise the long-term national interest. It is playing with fire and, if we go down this track, it is Britain that will get burnt."

He will add: "Our economy is finally turning a corner, but the recovery is fragile. We should be focusing on finishing the job and laying the foundations for long-term growth, not entertaining the idea of an EU exit that would throw our recovery away. Leaving the EU would be economic suicide. You cannot overstate the damage it would do to British livelihoods and prosperity."

Personally, I welcome this positioning. It is right that we put an end to speculation about Britain's membership of the European Union by having a referendum that will settle the issue for a generation or more.

More importantly, it is right that we make the case to stay a member in the most strident terms possible. This vote will be about the future of our country. If we opt for narrow isolationism then our future will be problematic and limited by our own lack of vision.
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