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Euro Zone Should Not Dictate Policy to Britain: UK's Clegg

The U.K. deputy prime minister said on Thursday that any solution to the euro zone crisis must not lead to some member states dictating terms to other European nations—such as the U.K.—that are outside the currency union.

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg takes part in a question and answer session with community groups at the Frontline Church in Liverpool, England.
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Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg takes part in a question and answer session with community groups at the Frontline Church in Liverpool, England.

U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg issued a stark warning to European leaders that further European fiscal integration must not lead to euro zone members dictating policy to those that remain outside of the currency union.

Clegg spoke before the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw, which brought together Europe’s leaders to discuss entry into the European Union of six former Soviet states. Clegg said that any change in governance structure of the European Union “must not lead to a weaker and divisive Europe.”

The speech comes after German parliament voted on Thursday morning to extend the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) in order to cope with further potential financial shocks in Europe. The EFSF is a vehicle financed by euro zone members, created in May of last year, that's designed to provide financial assistance to euro zone states suffering economic difficulty.

Clegg, who is a former member of the European Parliament, told leaders that the British government understands and even supports the case for further fiscal integration.

“Like everyone, our immediate concern is that decisions are taken quickly. The world is impatient. The markets are desperate for signs of leadership and the euro zone does not have time on its side,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech posted to the deputy prime minister office's web site.

But he also warned that the current crisis threatens to rupture and derail the entire European project, and the solution cannot lead to some member states dictating terms to the rest.

“While the U.K. has chosen not to join the euro, we respect the decisions taken by its members to support it. But we cannot accept arrangements that would privilege the euro zone as a decision-making body over the European Council,” he said. “It would not be right for the euro zone to take decisions that bind the rest of the EU. Above all, it cannot act against the interests of those who are not members. Any decision that affects the 27 must always be taken by the 27.”

The deputy prime minister’s speech came a day after he held a meeting with U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Prime Minister David Cameron; UK leaders have been hardening some of their language toward EU leaders.

The British government is becoming increasingly frustrated with a lack of clear leadership on the euro zone debt crisis.

The prime minister was one of six G20 leaders to sign an open letterto the French president last week calling for a resolution to the crisis.

Meanwhile, George Osborne told the House of Commons during a recalled session of parliament in August: "I have said many times before that the euro zone countries need to accept the remorseless logic of monetary union that leads from a single currency to greater fiscal integration.”

"Many people made exactly this argument more than a decade ago as a reason for Britain staying out of the single currency—and thank God we did," Osbourne said at the time.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also recently branded the euro a "burning building with no exits."

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