Clegg, who on Friday initially backed Cameron’s decision, has been accused of ‘constant flip-flopping’ and losing ‘all credibility’ by Jo-ann Robertson, MD of public affairs and corporate comms at Ketchum Pleon.
The ‘flip-flopping’ came after Cameron vetoed a plan for a treaty that would impose tighter EU control over national budgets – leaving Britain the only EU country not signed up to the plan.
On Friday morning Clegg issued a statement: ‘The demands Britain made for safeguards, on which the coalition Government was united, were modest and reasonable. They were safeguards for the single market, not just the UK.’
But during an interview on Sunday morning with BBC1’s Andrew Marr, Clegg made an apparent U-turn: ‘I'm bitterly disappointed by the outcome of last week's summit, precisely because I think now there is a danger that the UK will be isolated and marginalised within the European Union.’
He went on to say: ‘There's nothing bulldog about Britain hovering somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, not standing tall in Europe, not being taken seriously in Washington.’
When asked what he had told the Prime Minister, he replied: ‘I said this was bad for Britain. I made it clear that it was untenable for me to welcome it.’
Robertson said Clegg must stick by his own decisions: ‘Clegg is either committed to the coalition or he is not, this constant flip-flopping is not doing him or the Liberal Democrat Party any favours.’
Nick Williams, head of public affairs at Fleishman-Hillard London, argued that Europe is ‘fundamental to the future existence of the coalition’.
He said: ‘Europe is by far the greatest threat to the coalition and will fundamentally call into question how the coalition works in the future.’
Williams added: ‘David Cameron has become cornered – on the one hand by his rampant anti-European backbenchers who now smell EU blood – and on the other hand by his coalition partners whom Nick Clegg represents as the most pro-European politician in Parliament. How Cameron handles it in today's Commons Statement will determine whether there is an early general election.’
Robertson concluded that the Liberal Democrats had come to a ‘crossroads’. She argued: ‘Do they go back to their roots and principles and leave the coalition – or do they come to terms with their current positioning within the coalition as a right-wing party? The Liberal Democrats' future electoral success will depend on them making the right decision.’