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No change at the top

Posted by Richard Monday, July 09, 2007

Any slight hope that, with the advent of Gordon Brown to the premiership, we might have seen a more robust policy towards the EU must surely have dissipated.

Evidenced by statements emanating from today's meeting between Brown and the holder of the EU presidency, Portugal's José Socrates, all we are seeing is the same line touted by his predecessor, Tony Blair.

From outside No. 10 Downing Street, thus do we hear the new prime minister declaring that there is "no reason" why "the EU constitutional treaty" should be put to a referendum so long as Britain's "red lines" are enforced. No poll would be held, he says, if the agreement reached by government leaders in Brussels last month was replicated in the small print of the document.

Without making any concessions whatsoever to the growing tide of criticism, Brown simply repeats the tried and tested mantra. It was important, he said, that Britain's five "red lines" were clarified in the "detail" and, "If that were the case, then I see no reason to recommend to the British people that there should be a referendum," he added.

And still, Brown insists that the original "constitutional" treaty has been rejected, arguing that, "What we did accept was a number of changes and these are changes that make the EU with its membership of 27 work better."

So, there we go: it is all about "red lines". This is a mantra which, no doubt, Brown believes that, if he repeats often enough, he will get away with a massive surrender of powers to Brussels. A different face, maybe, but the same message. As far as EU policy goes, there has been no change at the top.

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