British PM snubs calls to renegotiate with EU

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British Prime Minister David Cameron brushed aside calls Wednesday to renegotiate an EU treaty, as his deputy premier's appearance beside him in parliament cooled talk of a coalition rift.

Conservative leader Cameron said he "made no apologies" for vetoing a new treaty at a eurozone crisis summit last week, a move which led to the other 26 European Union nations making an agreement without Britain.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats stayed away on Monday when Cameron made a statement to lawmakers on the issue, but he was by his side at prime minister's weekly questions on Wednesday.

Cameron's comments came a day after European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said that Britain's demands for its financial services industry to be exempted from EU regulation threatened to break up the single market.

At a raucous final session before the Christmas break, opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was the "sensible thing for him (Cameron) to do to re-enter the negotiations and try to get a better deal for Britain."

"I make no apologies for standing up for Britain," Cameron replied.

The two party leaders also traded barbs about the state of the 19-month-old coalition after Clegg stayed away on Monday and said at the weekend that Cameron's actions were "bad for Britain".

"Let me say it's good to see the deputy prime minister back in the house," Miliband said, to laughter from MPs.

Cameron hit back, saying that there would always be disagreements in a coalition and "no one in this house is going to be surprised that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats perhaps don't always agree about Europe."

"It's not that bad, I mean, it's not like we're brothers or anything," he joked, referring to Ed Miliband's battle last year with his brother, former foreign secretary David Miliband, for the Labour leadership.

© 2011 AFP

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