British leaders unveil 'historic' coalition deal

20th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition deputy unveiled full details Thursday of their "historic" power-sharing deal, under growing scrutiny for signs of strain.

Cameron, who took office last week in Britain's first coalition government since World War II, denied the coalition of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats would be hobbled by the compromises it has had to strike.

"Compromises have, of course, been made on both sides, but those compromises have strengthened, not weakened, the final result," he said at a joint launch with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, his deputy premier.

In another show of solidarity, the document was presented jointly by Cameron and Clegg, as well as Chancellor George Osborne and Home Secretary Theresa May of the Tories, and Lib Dem business minister Vince Cable.

The 34-page document, including agreed aims in 31 policy areas, fleshes out an initial seven-page joint programme published last week immediately after Cameron took office.

Key points of the document include:

- on banking: reform the banking system to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis; introduce a banking levy; tackle "unacceptable" bonuses; set up a body to probe separating retail and investment banking; plan to give the Bank of England control of macro regulation and oversight of micro regulation.

- on Europe -- where there are tensions between eurosceptic Tories and EU-friendly Lib Dems -- they vow to play a leading role in an enlarged EU, but that no further powers should be transferred to Brussels without a referendum. In addition they will not join or prepare to join the euro.

- on foreign affairs: safeguard Britain's national security and support armed forces in Afghanistan and elsewhere; push for peace in the Middle East via a "universally recognised" Israel and a "sovereign and viable Palestinian state"; build a new special relationship' with India and seek closer ties with China" and build "a strong, close and frank relationship with the US".

Cameron, whose party won the most seats in May 6 elections but fell short of an absolute majority, said his Tories and the Lib Dems were committed to forging a stable government for the next five years.

"From different political traditions -- conservatism and liberalism -- we've come together to forge a single programme drawing on the strengths and traditions of both of our parties," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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