'Vague' pledge on EU referendum will damage economy, says Clegg
David Cameron's "vague" promise of a renegotiation of Britain's membership of the European Union will damage economic growth, Nick Clegg warned yesterday.
The Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister made clear the depth of division between the coalition parties over Europe.
He said the Prime Minister had announced a five-year timetable for the "so-called" renegotiation and an in/out referendum on UK membership "for his own political purposes".
But he indicated this would not necessarily prevent Liberal Democrats entering into a renewed coalition with Conservatives if there is a hung Parliament after the 2015 General Election.
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The Prime Minister was boosted yesterday by a letter signed by 56 leaders of industry and the City, who welcomed his renegotiation proposals as "good for business and good for jobs in Britain".
Signatories to the letter to The Times included London Stock Exchange chief executive Xavier Rolet, Standard Chartered chairman Sir John Peace and Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh. They challenged Mr Clegg's argument that a protracted renegotiation will be bad for business.
Supporters of the plan welcomed German chancellor Angela Merkel's comment that she was "prepared to talk about British wishes... (and) find a fair compromise" as a sign that other European powers will be ready to engage with Mr Cameron's proposals.
However, Mr Clegg told LBC 97.3 radio: "I simply don't understand the point of spending years and years and years tying yourself up in knots, so-called renegotiating the terms of British membership in ways which at the moment at least are completely vague.
"I think that discourages investment and inhibits growth and jobs, which have to remain our absolute priority at a time when the economy is still struggling to recover.''