Clegg: the Coalition’s priorities must be “jobs and growth, jobs and growth”

by Stephen Tall on November 17, 2011

The intertwined topics of the economy and Europe has continued to dominate the political scene this week. But as Europhobic Tories continue to froth at the thought of England’s the UK’s retreat from its neighbours, Nick Clegg has maintained a decidedly mainstream approach, and attempted to shift the focus back from constitutional niceties to economic reality. Here’s how The Guardian reports Nick’s words:

Nick Clegg has clashed with David Cameron over Europe as he warned that only “populists, chauvinists and demagogues” would gain from protracted negotiations on treaty change. The Liberal Democrat deputy hit out the day after Cameron used his annual foreign policy speech at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet on Monday night to say that the euro crisis provided an opportunity for the EU to rethink its purpose and rules and to refashion it as a looser union. … But Clegg warned against the prospect of mainstream politicians becoming locked into “arcane” discussions rather than focusing on economic recovery.

And here’s Nick in his own words on his priorities for the Coalition:

“Clearly the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats, and David Cameron and myself, think differently on European issues. But where we agree is … what do we do to push economic reform and push the liberalisation needed to create jobs and prosperity in the EU? I don’t think anyone is talking about unilateral repatriation of powers. It’s not possible, and Europe doesn’t work like that.

“The danger always is that the debate becomes very quickly polarised between one side which says this is the moment to rush headlong towards further integration, new treaties, new intergovernmental conferences, new arcane debates about EU powers, and another side that says this is the moment to unravel the whole thing. I don’t think either side have got their priorities right.

“The priority should be jobs and growth, jobs and growth. Is the whole political establishment now going to disappear into a windowless room in Brussels, discussing things that no one can understand? It means absolutely nothing to millions of people across the EU who are worried about economic security. They are worried about prospects for their children. The only people who will benefit will be populists, chauvinists and demagogues, who will exploit that lack of political leadership.”

“Jobs and growth” — that has to be the right focus for the Coalition, however much the right-wing of the Tory party would like to spend time on line-by-line renegotiation of England’s the UK’s treaties with our European neighbours.