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British ministers warn EU cuts could isolate the UK

A day after British Prime Minister David Cameron’s own party defied him over not enforcing EU budget cuts, British ministers say the real test for the EU budget is yet to come.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg cross paths as Cameron walks away after speaking and Clegg walks up to take his turn to speak to an audience of Olympic site apprentices and business leaders inside the handball arena at the 2012 London Olympic Park in London, Thursday, May 12, 2011. Cameron and Clegg visited the handball arena to mark it's completion as a venue today, with yesterday marking the one year anniversary of their parties first coming to power in a coalition government. (Foto:Matt Dunham-Pool/AP/dapd)

England - David Cameron und Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, pictured above on the right, warned on Thursday that the decisions of the rebel lawmakers in parliament could leave Britain isolated in the EU or outside it altogether.

Watch video 01:36

Cameron's fine line on EU policy

"You will never achieve (anything) by stamping your foot and saying, 'Well we want to be part of this club, we want to unilaterally rewrite the rules of the games, and we want to pick and choose unilaterally what we sign up to,'" said Clegg, the leader of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, the junior party in Cameron's coalition government.

"My worry is that it is a much shorter leap from that to an outright crisis which would leave the United Kingdom fully marginalized or even out of the European Union than people seem to imagine," Clegg said.

Clegg spoke an hour after finance minister George Osborne played down the parliamentary defeat, warning that the real test will come when lawmakers have to decide whether to accept a deal.

Finding common ground

Osborne said the government wants the best deal it can get on a new European Union budget but isn't promising to get the reduction in real terms that the House of Commons has demanded, he told BBC radio.

"What we have got to do is come to a position that is agreed by the other countries and that the House of Commons accepts," he said. "That's the circle we've got to square."

The motion that was passed late Wednesday urged Cameron, pictured above on the left, to insist on a real-terms cut in the European Union's trillion-euro 2014-2020 budget at a summit in Brussels next month.

While the vote is not binding, it is the most significant defeat for the Conservative-led coalition since it came to power in 2010.

Britain is not the only country to have called on the EU to reduce spending amid domestic austerity measures in several member states. German and French officials have said the bloc should make do with less, though they disagree on where to cut.

hc/mz (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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