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FT.com / World - Brown's late signing of EU treaty attacked

Gordon Brown arrived in Lisbon more than three hours after his fellow leaders to sign the European reform treaty on Thursday amid growing claims the UK premier is becoming detached from the rest of the European Union.

Liberal reformers in Europe saw Mr Brown's solitary signing of the treaty as a symptom of his retreat to the margins in the EU and even Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, implored in English: "We need Gordon."

Some British diplomats are close to despair at what they see as the prime minister's disregard for the 27-member club and warn that the UK-inspired liberalisation drive in Europe could stall unless the prime minister returns to the fray.

By the time Mr Brown arrived in Lisbon more than half the other European leaders had already left and his decision to miss a lavish official signing ceremony of the revamped EU constitution drew official and media criticism from across the bloc.

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, is among those who want a strong British voice in Brussels, partly to balance French calls for more protectionism. Debates on energy liberalisation, climate change, temporary workers' rights and farm reform loom next year.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 14th, 2007 at 12:35:47 AM EST
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