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Brown backs a European Treaty without referendum

Tony Paterson
London Independent
Tuesday July 17, 2007

Gordon Brown began his first trip abroad since becoming Prime Minister with a pledge to introduce the European Treaty without calling a referendum in Britain.

Mr Brown, who was in Berlin yesterday for dinner with Chancellor Angela Merkel, said it would be possible to make rapid progress on setting a date for the treaty agreed in principle at last month's Brussels summit. "We will not require a referendum on this. It is something that can be worked on closely by Parliament. I think we can make progress quickly on this," he said.

Mr Brown was welcomed at the Berlin chancellery with full military honours by Ms Merkel. However, the two leaders did not indulge in any of the flamboyant gestures employed in the Franco-German relationship. In keeping with their shared upbringing as children of churchmen, Mr Brown and Ms Merkel simply shook hands.

Mr Brown, who met Ms Merkel several times when he was Chancellor, congratulated the German leader on her success in brokering agreements at the recent Brussels and G8 summits. He also credited her with turning round the German economy which he said had contributed to the euro's current strength. He said that Britain would continue to "periodically review" the idea of switching to the euro.

However, the German media underlined Mr Brown's credentials as a eurosceptic. Several commentators pointed out that, as Chancellor, Mr Brown had intervened to prevent Tony Blair's plans to hold a referendum on the euro in Britain.

Mr Brown's presence was being seen as a clear sign that Britain was poised to break with Mr Blair's pro-Iraq war stance. "Brown seems to prefer a certain distance from the US - more out of conviction than populist need," wrote one newspaper.

Other commentators said the combination of a looming British general election and growing public opposition to the Iraq war had put Mr Brown in a position in which he needed European allies "particularly France and Germany" to find a way out of Iraq.


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