David Cameron has defended his decision to veto a new European Union treaty but his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg, who said the move was “bad for Britain”, was notably absent from the Commons.
In a Commons statement the Prime Minister said “satisfactory safeguards were not forthcoming on the EU treaty”.
Mr Cameron said he had had to make a choice between a treaty without the proper safeguards for the City of London or no treaty at all.
He told MPs he wished other European leaders had agreed with him about the need for safeguards.
The PM denied his veto amounted to being soft on banking regulation and suggested it was because he wanted to be able to go further.
“It was not the easy thing to do but it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Mr Cameron said he remained committed to Britain’s membership of the EU.
“Britain remains a full member of the European Union and the events of last week do nothing to change that,” he said.
“Our membership of the EU is vital to our national interest.”
He said there will be a “period of great change in Europe” and “no one knows how the Eurozone will develop”.
Mr Cameron reiterated that he had informed the Government of his intentions regarding the treaty prior to his visit to Brussels last week.
The other 26 members are now set to go ahead with a new set of fiscal rules for the eurozone through an international agreement, which Britain will not be a party to.
Nick Clegg – “I’m bitterly disappointed.”
Vince Cable – UK “finished in a bad place”.
Paddy Ashdown – “A catastrophically bad move.”
Baroness Tonge – “We have been sold a pup.”
Liberal Democrats react to David Cameron’s EU veto
Following the statement, Labour leader Ed Miliband highlighted the fact that Mr Clegg was not present to hear it.
Mr Clegg said he had stayed away from the Commons because he did not want his presence to be a distraction.
In an interview later he said he did not think people “cared that much who sits where in the House of Commons”.
“The Prime Minister and I clearly do not agree on the outcome of the summit last week.
“I have made it very clear that I think isolation in Europe, where we are one against 26, is potentially a bad thing for jobs, a bad thing for growth and a bad thing for the livelihoods of millions of people in this country.”
But he insisted the coalition was “here to stay” until 2015.
Earlier Mr Cameron told MPs: “I’m not responsible for his whereabouts.”
Mr Miliband said the PM had “come back with a bad deal” for Britain and that no extra protection had been guaranteed as a result of his decision.
He said Britain had been “left without a voice” in Europe and that it was a “diplomatic disaster”.
Mr Miliband said the PM should have stayed at the summit and argued Britain’s case. He said the deal is “bad for business, bad for jobs, and bad for Britain”.
Following Mr Miliband’s questions, Mr Cameron challenged the politician to say whether he would have signed up to the new treaty or not.
Other MPs echoed the PM’s calls.
Mr Cameron was questioned for nearly two hours by over 100 MPs.
The measures agreed at last week’s summit seem to have had little effect on the markets which have had a bad day.
London’s FTSE 100 fell 101 points, to close at 5427, a drop of over 1.8%.
Germany’s DAX fell more than 3.3%, France’s CAC 40 was down 2.6%, the MIB in Italy shed almost 3.8% and Spain’s IBEX closed 3.1% lower.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said earlier on Monday Mr Cameron stuck to “an agreed negotiating position” in Brussels and his demands were “entirely reasonable”.
But Mr Clegg has revealed he was “bitterly disappointed” with Mr Cameron’s use of the veto last week and warned it will leave Britain a “pygmy” in the eyes of the world.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has dismissed reports he is set to resign over the Prime Minister’s decision to distance the UK from the rest of the EU.
He told reporters on his doorstep: “No, no, I’m just getting on with my job as I always do.”
But he did call for “complete reassurance” for the public and the business community that Britain remains fully committed to the European Union.
The Lib Dem minister would not be drawn on the scale of the row between the parties in Government, adding only: “Millions of jobs are involved, that’s the really important thing.”
At the weekend the Deputy Prime Minister said the UK now faces “being isolated and marginalised within the European Union” and considered irrelevant by the US.
Mr Clegg told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t think that’s good for jobs, in the City or elsewhere, I don’t think it’s good for growth or for families up and down the country.”
Rubbishing claims the Prime Minister showed “bulldog spirit”, Mr Clegg added: “There’s nothing bulldog about Britain hovering somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, not standing tall in Europe, not being taken seriously in Washington.”
Europe was always likely to be a pressure point within the coalition as Lib Dems tend to favour more engagement in constrast to more eurosceptic Conservatives.