Nick Clegg yesterday made a very public display of engagement with business over Europe as the deputy prime minister convened a business breakfast with Business For New Europe, a pro-single market group. Mr Clegg, flanked by Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Chris Huhne David Laws, wanted to get the message across that he had dusted himself down and was ready to begin work on rebuilding relations on the continent after a bruising week for Britain.
But beyond the photo shoot and crafted media message lines, was a second, more exclusive meeting between Mr Clegg and the director-generals of key lobby groups. This meeting wasn’t briefed out but was apparently a quite detailed debate about tactics going forward.
“We pooled intelligence and talked about how big inward investors want reassurance about Britain’s place in Europe,” said one attendee, who described the deputy prime minister’s mood as “workmanlike”.
And while business has so far been quite measured it is response to David Cameron’s veto, nerves were beginning to show at the meeting. Insurers are apparently very worried that the prime minister’s isolationist position would make negotiating more difficult ahead of a stream of regulation coming down the line.
“We shave got to take a view that people in Europe still see us as rational partners to work with regardless of what happened last week, but of course we are concerned about being sidelined,” said one concerned party.
Solvency II rules coming down the line were discussed alongside the financial transaction tax and the working time directive. The group also talked about which European countries Britain should try to pick off as allies — the Germans and Scandinavians –over specific issues.