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Will unpopular Nick Clegg be the UK’s next EU commissioner? ‘No chance’ says his party's number two

Sunday, 10 April 2011
Nick Clegg (Photo: Telegraph)Nick Clegg, left, is hardly the most popular figure in the UK politics at the moment, and it is even starting to look as though he will face a serious struggle to hold onto his seat of Sheffield Hallam at the next election, so if the worst came to worst and he did lose his seat, where would he go?

Well back in December, there was talk of “Downing Street sources” suggesting an emergency exit strategy has been devised which would see the Prime Minister David Cameron ‘parachute him’ into “one of the big jobs in Brussels” - namely becoming a Member of the European Commission, replacing the incumbent British representative, the current High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton.

The current college of EU Commissioners are due to step down from their roles in October 2014 at the end of its current mandate, and that date is conveniently just ahead of the next UK General Election scheduled to take place in May 2015 (if the coalition lasts that long).

With calls for Baroness Ashton to step down still persisting, and further talk of this exit strategy re-emerging, Mr Clegg’s number two, the party’s deputy leader Simon Hughes, has this weekend used a wide-ranging interview in the Guardian to scotch these rumours. Asked to comment on the possibility of Mr Clegg moving to work in Brussels, Mr Hughes said:

I see no chance. He will want to defend our record in government, and I think, as the second half of the parliament moves towards a general election, people will be able to see exactly the influence of the Liberal Democrats in government. It wouldn't have happened without Nick's determination to be there, and absolute energy and tenacity in making sure not a single thing in government escapes his attention and doesn't have our input into it.

Since Mr Clegg, a pro-European and speaker of numerous languages, has already spent many years in Brussels and served as an MEP himself in 1999 staying in that post until 2004, he would no doubt be welcomed back in the Belgian capital. So maybe there is more of this story to run? Only time will tell.

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