NICK Clegg will tell voters it is time to pick sides in the debate over Britain’s future in the European Union as he launches the Liberal Demcrats European election campaign.
The Lib Dem leader will brand the UK Independence Party as “xenophobes” engaged in a “dangerous fantasy” and accuse Labour and Conservatives of doing nothing to oppose them.
Mr Clegg hopes concerns among pro-Europeans that Ukip will triumph in next months polls will galvanise them into voting for the Lib Dems, the only major party going into the election with an unashamedly positive stance on Europe.
Speaking to supporters in Colchester, the Sheffield Hallam MP will say: “Ukip and others have been allowed to peddle their myths unchallenged for decades, claiming that all of our problems would magically disappear if the UK just left the EU.
“But it’s a dangerous fantasy. It’s the surest way to jeopardise jobs, risk our fragile economic recovery, and it will leave Britain alone and diminished in the world.
“The fight is on. The isolationists are not going to get a free run of this debate any more – not when there’s so much at stake. Every gain they make on May 22 takes Britain a step closer to European exit and they need to be stopped.”
For very different reasons, both Ukip and the Lib Dems hope to turn the May 22 poll into an unofficial referendum on Britain’s future in Europe.
In contrast, David Cameron has pitched the Conservatives as moderates between the “extremist” Lib Dems and Ukip.
Mr Clegg will say: “Anyone who agrees that we are better off in – whether that’s businesses, the crime fighting agencies, progressive voters and people who care about the environment: make yourselves heard.
“If you are holding back, ask yourself: what are you waiting for? The fight is on. The threat is real. It’s time to pick a side.”