Deputy Premier Nick Clegg has launched a passionate defence of Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Mr Clegg was speaking at the closing event of the Global Manufacturing Festival in Sheffield - a debate entitled “Europe - In or Out” organised by law firm Nabarro.
The Sheffield Hallam MP dismissed Prime Minister David Cameron’s idea that Britain could renegotiate the terms of its EU membership as “ridiculous.”
He also warned that the country would inevitably lose economically and in terms of its influence on the United States and the rest of the world if it left the EU.
“Our membership of the EU is directly or indirectly responsible for about three million jobs. One in 10 people in employment here have their jobs largely because of our membership of the largest, borderless, single market in the world,” said Mr Clegg.
“It also helps us to safeguard ourselves from crime that moves across borders and it is the only way we can deal collectively with some of the challenges of climate change and crime.”
Countering the claims that Britain’s sovereignty was undermined by its membership of the EU, Mr Clegg argued that it was actually enhanced.
“Some people believe that pooling sovereignty is some how a diminution of our power. I see it the other way round. By pooling sovereignty we can do things that we simply wouldn’t be able to do on our own.
“If we pulled out of the European Union we would no longer have access to all the markets in the world with which the EU has negotiated open access agreements. Just imagine how puny our negotiating clout would be when we are up against China. Why should they take our demands seriously, compared with our clout now,” said Mr Clegg, adding that Britain had been remarkably successful in reforming the EU.