British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have pledged to continue the Conservative-led coalition government's programme of deficit reduction. Clegg, leader of the Liberals, the junior party in the ruling coalition government, said that the "big purpose" of the coalition remained the building of "a stronger economy in a fairer society", comparing the willingness of the two parties to work together with the political divisions in the United States and parts of Europe. Britain has held onto its top triple-A credit rating while the United States and France have suffered downgrades, but that endorsement has looked increasingly shaky as the economic outlook darkens. A loss of the rating would be a blow to Cameron and his Conservative-led coalition, which has staked its political reputation on maintaining the top rating and nursing Britain's economy back to health by cutting its deficit. Cameron said the key to keeping the faith of financial markets was the government's programme of cutting state spending to bring its deficit under control. Data on Friday suggested Britain's economy may have shrunk in late 2012, raising the chances of the country sinking back into its third recession since the 2008-09 financial crisis.
BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: "Britain is in a global race, and that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Some countries will sink, others will swim. And for Britain to be a success, we need to take the tough decisions that will enable us to compete and thrive. We need to fix the nation's finances by dealing with our debts. We need to rebalance and rebuild our economy and we need to back the aspiration of hardworking families and businesses who want to get on and do the right thing. More importantly Nick and I are completely united on the big issues that brought our two parties together in the national interest and which remain this Government's sheet anchor today, on cutting the deficit and building a stronger, more balanced economy, on putting responsibility back at the heart of our welfare and education systems, on backing aspirations, getting behind the hardworking people and businesses that will enable our country to succeed in the global race. Government is at its strongest when making these big arguments and on all of these issues our resolve and our sense of shared purpose, if anything, have got stronger over these last two and a half years."
BRITISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER NICK CLEGG: "Actually all governments are facing some very big political as well as economic challenges as we clear up after the mess that was created in the crisis of 2008, and politically that requires two things - firstly, an ability to reach across party lines to act in the national interest and secondly an ability to act fast and boldly to deal with those challenges. Look at the clifftop political brinkmanship in Washington last week, look at the failure of some European governments to get to grips with some of their economic problems quickly and boldly enough, and it is a source of immense pride to me - and I think everybody in the coalition - that we, by contrast, have put partisan differences aside to act in the national interest and have acted fast and have acted boldly."