Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today argue that supporting Britain’s European Union membership doesn’t mean opposing reform as polls suggest his Liberal Democrat party will come last in EU elections later this month.
“The idea that if you are pro-Europe, you are somehow anti-reform, that if you are in favour of staying in, you think the EU doesn’t need to change” is “utter nonsense,” Clegg will say in a speech in London today, according to remarks released by his office.
Clegg is seeking to drum up support for Liberal Democrats ahead of the May 22 vote after Nigel Farage, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates withdrawal from the EU, won two successive debates on membership of the bloc against him. His comments today follow a speech by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander on April 28, in which he said an EU exit would kill the recovery “stone dead.”
Clegg will argue that his party is the most united on Europe and therefore will be more effective at delivering reform.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a speech in Berlin this week that Britain should be treated as a special case in the EU, and that the bloc “can, and should, find ways to cater to the U.K.’s specificity.”
“I do acknowledge that for historical, geopolitical and economic reasons the case of the U.K. may be seen as a special one,” Barroso said. “Precisely because of this, it would be a mistake to transform an exception for the U.K into a rule for everybody else.”
Clegg will also set out the economic arguments for continued EU membership. He will say that completing the single market could increase Britain’s gross domestic product by 7 percent, while completing the EU’s trade agreements and increasing EU R&D spending could create over 300,000 new jobs in Britain.