Clegg May Pay A High Price For PM’s EU Gamble

December 10th, 201110:58 pm @


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7:36pm UK, Saturday December 10, 2011

Joey Jones, deputy political editor

The Government is arguing strongly that David Cameron protected Britain from a fairly ugly deal in the early hours of Friday morning at the EU meeting in Brussels.

But however bad that result might have been, it does not mean that the eventual outcome was a success.

The Prime Minister had hoped for something different, but did not manage to get it.

The negotiating strategy was signed off in Downing Street on Thursday morning.

:: Read more about the eurozone crisis.

Mr Cameron, the Deputy PM Nick Clegg and the rest of them were optimistic they could exploit the German Chancellor’s desire to get Britain and the others on board to get more in the terms of “safeguards” than many MPs and commentators were expecting.

Of course, that turned out to be over-optimistic.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg is facing anger from some in his Lib Dem party

For the PM, the failure of the negotiating strategy has a silver lining in that his refusal to be browbeaten has won him plaudits in the media and popularity in sections of his party that have been resistant of late to the Cameron embrace.

For Mr Clegg, the outlook is much more uncomfortable.

Frontline Liberal Democrats have stuck to the government line admirably, but there is anger only just below the surface that could explode.

Monday will be a key day. For many Lib Dem MPs, the afternoon will be one of the most uncomfortable since the formation of the coalition government.

They will have to sit in the Commons and watch as Conservative MPs laud the PM’s Churchillian fortitude, castigate the folly of European leaders and generally rub salt in Liberal Democrat wounds.

PM David Cameron leaves the EU Summit in Brussels

Mr Cameron might have to dampen down Eurosceptic excitement

Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem deputy leader, told Sky News that Tory eurosceptics should “calm down.”

I do not think even he thinks they will though.

And it will be fascinating to observe the PM’s demeanour as well.

Bathing in the adulation of Bill Cash and his colleagues would only irritate Lib Dem partners still further.

And Mr Cameron might have to go so far as to damp down Eurosceptic excitement, brush off some of the congratulations from unusual quarters and generally temper the mood of triumph.

Knowing what is at stake, one senior Lib Dem told me: “This is serious for the coalition, but it need not be fatal.”

Monday will be a test of coalition manners with potentially long-lasting consequences for relations between the governing parties.

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