LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday he protected Britain's national interest by refusing to join 26 other nations in a European Union-wide treaty to rescue the euro last week.
Defending his blocking of the accord to lawmakers in London, Cameron said he'd sought "modest and reasonable" safeguards for Britain's finance industry and the EU's single market in the talks in Brussels and had no choice but to oppose a treaty when he couldn't secure them. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has criticized Cameron's decision, was absent from the House of Commons as the premier explained his actions.
"I went to Brussels with one objective, to protect Britain's national interest, and that is what I did," Cameron said. "It wasn't the easy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do."
By refusing to join the fiscal accord, Cameron, who was cheered by lawmakers from his Conservative Party as he arrived in the chamber, strengthened the Tory faction that wants Britain to leave the EU. He also caused the biggest divide in his coalition with Clegg's pro-Europe Liberal Democrats since the parties campaigned on opposite sides in a May voting-system overhaul.
Debt crises darkens
Doubts rebounded Monday over Europe's ability to solve its debt crisis and rescue the imperiled euro, as investors worried that plans for closer fiscal unity will bring little immediate relief and exposed the continent's deep political divisions.
As the rift between Britain, which has its own currency, and the 17 nations that use the euro created uncertainty about the deal's future, ratings agencies Moody's and Fitch warned the plan did not even properly address the problem of lowering existing European debt.