Page last updated at 18:24 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 19:24 UK

Clegg warns of Eurosceptic danger

By Ben Wright
BBC political correspondent

Over the years, the Liberal Democrats' passionate support for the European Union and the single currency has not exactly seduced British voters.

Nick Clegg
Mr Clegg also joined in a French lesson as he launched his Euro campaign

In the 2004 Euro elections, the party came fourth, behind the UK Independence Party - which campaigns for Britain's exit from the European Union.

Of course, European elections do not just measure the public's view of the parties' stance on Europe.

The state of domestic politics is arguably more significant.

But the Liberal Democrats are proud of their European credentials.

Stronger Together, Poorer Apart is the title of their manifesto and at a press conference in London on Tuesday, party leader Nick Clegg, a former MEP himself, extolled the virtues of EU membership.

Westminster politics will play a big part at the coming election

He said that in an unsafe world the EU offered "safety in numbers", which marks a slight change in tone.

Rather than simply praising the EU as a good thing, he warned about the dangers of Britain not being an active player in Europe.

It was a message that had a touch of threat to it. Being detached in Europe would, he said, mean fewer jobs and more crime in Britain.

He said the European Union offered safety in numbers on economic issues, combating crime and protecting the environment.

Mr Clegg argued that his party is best placed to influence the European decisions that have a practical impact on Britain.

With a resurgent Conservative Party threatening the Liberal Democrats in the south, Nick Clegg made the Tories his target.

He said the Conservatives wanted to pull down the drawbridge and retreat to the fanatical fringe of Europe, a move he said, that could make Britain less safe.

But Westminster politics will play a big part at the coming election.

Mr Clegg said that the expenses scandal put politicians of all parties on trial and that the allowances system had been a train crash waiting to happen.

But the focus on the receipts of Labour and the Conservatives may give the Lib Dems an electoral lift.

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MEP Seats

  Votes MEPs
Party % +/- % Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.

UK Total MEP Seats

Party Votes MEPs
% +/- % Total +/-
CON 27.7 1.0 *26 1
UKIP 16.5 0.3 13 1
LAB 15.7 -6.9 13 -5
LD 13.7 -1.2 11 1
GRN 8.6 2.4 2 0
BNP 6.2 1.3 2 2
SNP 2.1 0.7 2 0
PC 0.8 -0.1 1 0
OTH 8.5 2.4 0 0
SF 1 0
DUP 1 0
72 of 72 seats declared. Vote share figures exclude Northern Ireland as it has a separate electoral system to the rest of the UK
* Includes UCUNF MEP elected in Northern Ireland
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