Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Patten moves in

In a widely expected development, but completely ignored by the Britain in Europe website (its last press release is dated 9 September) Chris Patten, the European Union foreign affairs commissioner, has joined the board of Britain in Europe.

According to The Financial Times, this raises the speculation Patten could lead the "yes" campaign in the EU referendum.

This will come as no surprise to referendum watchers, as Patten has given many signals that he would like to lead the campaign and only recently the Europhile Foreign Policy Centre has urged Patten to lead the campaign, its director Mark Leonard stating that "Pro-Europeans" could not afford to let the constitution vote become a referendum on Blair.

However, Patten, in common with many of his Europhile colleagues, is arguing that the campaign can only get off the ground if Blair takes a lead, having said recently that "I for one would be reluctant to be sent over the top into no-man's land while the officers sat at the back of the trench, cheering."

Nevertheless, Patten has agreed to join the 18-strong board of Britain in Europe, which will undoubtedly be running the “yes” campaign – having played a leading role in the 1975 referendum. When the current chairman, Lord Marshall, stands down after the general election, it is widely assumed that Patten will take his place.

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