By Matthew Barrett
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Below is a selection of prominent Lib Dems' reactions to David Cameron's veto at the European summit this week.
Sharon Bowles, the Lib Dem MEP who chairs the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, has made several strange remarks yesterday and today. In an interview yesterday, she said she wants to take up Irish citizenship, in order to be a citizen of a Eurozone country. This morning she tweeted:
"Media frenzy continues. The UK veto will hit negotiations on financial dossiers hard. The City will suffer. Maybe serves them right."
An incredible thing for the chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee to say.
Simon Hughes explained the Lib Dem position last night:
"We’re not cheering anything. We are not cheering the fact that we did not get an agreement…it would not have been in Britain’s interest for our Parliament to be distracted by a referendum. The last thing that would have been good for Britain would have been an introspective debate about semantics."
Hughes also appeared on Sky News this morning. He warned Eurosceptics against trying to leave the EU, and emphasised Lib Dem loyalty to the Coalition Agreement. He said:
"The other great benefit, and this is where the Eurosceptics just have to be careful because they’re not going to have successes they may now think they’re going to have, it’s that we’re not going to be negotiating treaty change. It will not be discussed in this Parliament, there will not be the opportunity for them to pull us away from Europe, that’s off the table. Thank goodness it is, because, firstly, we did a very clear Coalition Agreement that says that there will only be a discussion about treaty change if there was going to be further transfer of powers from the UK to the European Union, there’s none of that."
Lord Oakeshott, a close ally of Vince Cable, was unsupportive of David Cameron's position – and then attacked Eurosceptic MPs for being disloyal to the Coalition Agreement. On Newsnight last night, he said:
"What really matters is that the British Prime Minister has been doing special pleading for special interest in the City and conciliating people like you [Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin] who have never accepted the Coalition Agreement. You are always asking for a referendum which is not in the agreement, instead of putting the British national interest first."
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown told the Guardian last night:
"The deep and sustained anti-European prejudice of some in the Tory party backed by anti-European papers has now created anti-British prejudice in Europe, especially in Paris. There will be a huge price to pay and, as a consequence, the foreign policy priorities of this country for the past 40 years has gone down the plughole in a single night. That foreign policy has now been hijacked by the Eurosceptics in the Conservative party aided by a prime minister who was not prepared to stand up for the national interest. As a consequence we have lost control of the European agenda and the prime minister has lost control of the demands for a referendum. This has been Gallic payback time for the way in which Cameron went around Europe lecturing Sarkozy on what to do."
"I think there is a danger that [David Cameron] was so keen to protect the bankers form regulation that he has actually caused a lot of problems for Britain and for the EU within it. Perhaps the real problem here is David Cameron's having decided under pressure form his euro backbenchers to pull out of the European People's Party. What happened immediately before this summit was the EPP had a big meeting in Marseilles and they agreed that they were going to do. Had Cameron been around the table there, then he could have prevented this from happening. His decision to ally himself with some weirdos from Eastern Europe, which is what his backbenchers were wanting, has actually cost Britain the influence that we needed at a crucial moment. I think this could be a seminal moment, and we are going to have to do a lot of work now to try to work our way back in."
The Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham, Martin Horwood, tweeted this last night:
"Big #Eurozone question: when PM made reasonable demands, why didn't UK have a friend in the room? Endless Eurosceptic rhetoric did real harm"
"The outcome of the failure of the EU summit to reach agreement as 27 was a triumph for the Eurosceptics, but it also showed up Britain's two top Conservatives – prime minister David Cameron and his undeclared rival London mayor Boris Johnson – as what my father – himself an old Etonian – would have called 'spivs'. … Cameron and his rival Johnson are doing what the 'jobs for the boys' Tories have done so often: protect their rich friends."
Some over-the-top anti-Tory comments came from Chris Davies MEP, who issued the following statement:
"Far from keeping Britain strong, Cameron has ensured that we will lose our influence at the top table. By seeking to protect bankers from regulation, he has betrayed Britain’s real interests and done nothing in practice to help the City of London. … The consequence of the xenophobic attitudes towards our European neighbours that have been allowed to develop has been to leave Britain weak. We have shot ourselves in the foot."
One Lib Dem MP does deserve some credit. Leeds North West's Greg Mulholland tweeted:
"So much nonsense in the media tonight. The UK could not possibly have signed the treaty on offer. Doing so would have led to chaos."