Election 2015: Lib Dems 'won't play footsie on EU'

Nick Clegg on Today

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The Lib Dems will not "play footsie" with the idea of leaving the EU, leader Nick Clegg has told the BBC.

He refused to say if his party would block a referendum before agreeing to a new coalition with the Conservatives.

But Nick Clegg said he would back a referendum if there were plans for more powers to be transferred to Brussels.

The Tories are pledging to renegotiate UK membership and hold a referendum on the result by the end of 2017. Labour says the plan is bad for businesses.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Our position has been very clear, very consistent, of course there should be a referendum, a question put to the British people about whether we continue our membership of the European Union or not when we need to make a decision on the transfer of new powers.

"But what we will never ever do of course is play footsie with the prospect of actually leaving the EU, which is where large parts of the Conservative Party are, and of course they are doing so as they are desperately chasing UKIP to the right."

'Play footsie with leaving'

The deputy prime minister then went on to say there had been a lack of "centre ground" in the debate on Europe.

He said: "On this issue, as on so many other issues, there is a real danger of British politics being pulled to the right and the left.

"I think there is a real space in this campaign, which I obviously hope the Liberal Democrats will fill, for the reasoned centre ground."

The EU, and the UK's place within it, is set to be a major issue in the election campaign.

UKIP want to leave the EU and aim to hold a referendum at the earliest opportunity, meanwhile, Labour has said it would try to enhance the UK's influence in a reformed Europe.

The Greens would hold a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU, and the party would also aim to reform the EU to hand powers back to local communities.

Mr Clegg also used the radio interview to say he would see out the next parliament.

He said: "I certainly want to serve out the next parliament and hopefully see the Liberal Democrats guaranteeing the government of this country remains anchored in the liberal centre ground."

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