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Liberal Democrat unease at David Cameron’s EU summit appearance

Charles Kennedy has warned prime minister that party will not tolerate a repeat of his wielding the British veto

Unease among Liberal Democrats before David Cameron’s latest appearance at a critical EU summit has been made clear by a rare intervention by their former leader, Charles Kennedy, who urges the prime minister to take an active and confident role at the heart of the European Union.

Amid disquiet among Eurosceptic cabinet ministers after the prime minister seemingly changed tack on EU institutions being used to enforce new rules for the eurozone, Kennedy warns that the party will not tolerate any repeat of the wielding of the British veto.

Kennedy speaks out in a letter to the Guardian as the prime minister travels to Brussels for an EU summit designed to focus on promoting economic growth.

Leaders of the 17-strong eurozone, plus as many as nine other EU leaders, are also hoping to reach a political agreement on a new treaty that will enforce a fiscal compact for the eurozone. They are having to negotiate the treaty outside the formal architecture of the EU because Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon treaty last month after failing to win safeguards for the City of London.

The prime minister reached out last week to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who is pushing for the tough new eurozone rules, by agreeing that the European court of justice could be used to enforce a new sanctions regime. Cameron had previously cast doubt on using the EU’s institutions to enforce rules outside the official architecture of the union.

Kennedy makes it clear that Cameron must never again isolate Britain as he did at last month’s summit when he wielded the British veto. The former Lib Dem leader, who is president of the European Movement, tells the Guardian: “We want to see the British government work with our EU partners to make the EU a vehicle for growth and employment. If we are to keep our place in the world we must regain our competitiveness and we can do that better when we work together. Britain’s place is at the centre of where decisions are made.”

Meanwhile, European leaders are to seek respite from the euro and sovereign debt crises at the summit by trying to come up with policies aimed at generating economic growth and jobs creation, especially among the young.

But with the EU drifting towards a double-dip recession, banks’ deleveraging likely to cause a new credit crunch, and austerity and budget cuts on an unprecedented scale across large parts of Europe, such policies look likely to resemble empty promises for the time being, say diplomats and analysts. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds