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Gordon goes to Lisbon, eventually

Mark Mardell | 08:12 UK time, Thursday, 13 December 2007

All Gordon Brown needs to do today is get his red box trapped in a revolving door to turn his brief trip to Lisbon into "Mr Bean goes on holiday".

Mr Bean's Holiday

Perhaps his reluctance to travel all the way to the Portuguese capital is understandable.

It's on the eve of a Brussels summit and there's been much talk of unnecessary carbon footprints.

Diary clash

Mr Brown perhaps didn't want to be seen celebrating a treaty that evokes such passions back at home, and will reignite calls for a referendum.

Downing Street say it's a simple diary clash between the Liaison Committee and the signing ceremony. While I am not sure how flexible the MPs would be, I am fairly certain that the Portuguese could have been persuaded to move the ceremony if Mr Brown had asked very nicely and early enough.

This means that the European Commission will not get the happy snap they want.

The picture in their minds' eye was of 27 leaders, united, drawing a firm line under the sometimes painful debate of the last years.

Moving on

27 leaders determined to move on. 27 leaders signalling that the Dutch and French "no" votes were a thing of the past.

Instead they will get 26 leaders united, and Mr Brown turning up half-way through lunch, with just enough time to swig a cup of coffee before heading off to sign the treaty on his own.

Cameras will, I'm told, be allowed to record this great event.

One commission source told me: "He's got himself into a position where he's upset everyone without achieving anything. He's handled it so badly: he's made it look like a dirty secret, signing it in a back room."

President Barroso is said to be relieved that Mr Brown is at least going to go to Lisbon and will put his name to the document. At one time, as Mr Brown's people told the Sun, he planned to skip the event altogether.

I am told it took heavy lobbying by the Foreign Office, the commission and the Portuguese to convince Number Ten of what my source calls "the folly" of not going.

But perhaps Mr Brown has mollified the opposition? Not a bit of it.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary Willam Hague, says "Gordon Brown has even managed to turn something as simple as signing the EU Treaty into a national embarrassment.

"What will other EU leaders think of a Prime Minister who dithers for a week about whether he dares be photographed putting pen to paper? Does he think that other European prime ministers don't have diary commitments too? Instead of leadership we have indecision, gutlessness and broken election promises."

If every picture tells a story perhaps the two pictures will tell the true tale.

The picture we will presumably get later today will be seen by some as an appropriate symbolism on a number of levels. Many European countries always have seen Britain as a rather grudging member, and this will be a visual expression of that.


Some feel there is one treaty for 26 countries and then another slightly different treaty for Britain, with UK-only opt-outs and opt-ins and qualifications attached.

They will feel Mr Brown signing alone is an appropriate symbol of a Britain, which already has refused to join the euro, the passport-free area and common policies on migration; a Britain which is semi-detached from the European Union.

Of course that is what many, probably most, British people want but such semi-isolation is not seen as particularly splendid by other big players.

It will also be seen as a change. The consummate performer, Tony Blair, would never have let himself get in this mess.

It will be seen as a symbol that Mr Brown does not understand or care much about the European Union. The German Chancellor, the French President, the new Polish PM all made it to Brussels within days of being elected.

Mr Brown's first visit as Prime Minister will be tomorrow. I asked one insider if he was seen as an awkward customer: "He's not difficult. He's just not there. He's not engaged."

Many will perhaps feel he's spot on, in refusing to engage with this cumbersome and often frustrating machine but one can almost feel the frustration radiating off diplomats and the feeling that he is missing an opportunity to forge alliances and make friendships that could be important in the future.


Gordon Brown has now signed the Lisbon treaty, in a different room to the grand auditorium where the rest put pen to paper.

He signed the big fat book on a gilded table , looking rather uncomfortable, and had to be persuaded to turn to face the cameras.

As yet no words. But no revolving doors either.

A little earlier the foreign secretary shook hands with the Portuguese Prime Minister who asked him "where is …?". Mr Miliband tapped his watch and said: "On his way."

There was almost a sense of sympathy for the man delegated to do the deed.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 08:17 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Andrzej wrote:

Instead of seeing the abandoned manifesto commitment as an albatross, Brown should hold a referendum and demonstrate to Europe how committed the British people are to the project.

  • 2.
  • At 08:41 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Tel Tetel wrote:

I cannot know Mr. Brown's feelings about the EU or anything else. Britain is shown to lack democracy if the PM has to hide and pretend so as to sign a Treaty which he knows to be good for his country. He is giving in to the Euro-septics who prefer a little marginalised and irrelevant England than a strong respected European Britain.

  • 3.
  • At 08:53 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • BernieZ wrote:

"Many will perhaps feel he's spot on, in refusing to engage with this cumbersome and often frustrating machine"
well, the "European machine" is cumbersome exactly because of all the vetoes, special clauses, etc. (some of which the new treaty tries to remove). If the British really want a more streamlined "machine", they have to transfer powers to Europe, so Europe can decide faster. And if they (or anyone else) want a more democratic Europe, they have to transfer powers to the European Parliament...easy, no?

  • 4.
  • At 08:56 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • CHRIS WOOD wrote:

islolation from the eu bring it on........get brown out followed by a labour they have no mandate to run ou country.....

  • 5.
  • At 09:04 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Mark

Mark, you do realize that the only loyalty Gordon Brown has (or rather: should have) politically, is towards those who elected him. And those who elected him are the voters and not mr Sarkozy or frau Merkel.

  • 6.
  • At 09:05 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

Perhaps the EU can airbrush Gordon Bean into the jolly group photo of the glorious 26... + 1 - I recall some recent precedents here involving Government ministers.

  • 7.
  • At 09:30 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • john somer wrote:

Gordon Brown is following the British SOP. Rememb er McMillan's
"Tell them I'm busy with Cyprus" ?
A Britain that is beautifully symbolised by the TGV arriving at St Pancras instead of at Heathrow, going from the 21st century into the 19th....(and building a thrid runway at that airport... perfect for the environment)

  • 8.
  • At 09:41 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Andy Paul wrote:

As you infer most British people feel things have gone far enough and would be happier with further detatchment and not engagement. I suspect Brown realises this all too well.

  • 9.
  • At 09:45 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

[Brown has] "upset everyone without achieving anything" - an apt description of his premiership so far.

Can't wait for the pictures....

  • 10.
  • At 09:49 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • M Welk wrote:

Whatever one thinks of the contents of the EU Constitution/Treaty, The fact that Gordon "McCavity" Brown has not got the bottle or the decency to turn up for the proper signing is an absolute disgrace and a childish, petulant and arrogant gesture which shames the UK. How come all other EU heads of State could find the time to attend the proper EU signing. What is more worrying, the PM seems to have a serious lack of judgement which does not bode well in real crises.

Unfortunately we have in this PM a scheming old style politician who is most interested in playing partisan political games and is no way the statesman that is required for the job. He is not up to the job.

  • 11.
  • At 09:50 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

Frankly, I prefer a UK PM who "visualises" the semi-detached status of Britain to a PM who talks about being "at the heart of Europe" without having any real respect for the rest of Europe.

I think Mark does a great job by telling things as they are. The UK has a problem with the rest of Europe and in my humble opinion this problem is due to an identity crisis and a slight inferiority complex. It is not, as the tabloids want everyone to believe, due to the UK having to defend common sense and fight off malicious EU meddling.

I think most people on the continent see it that way, if only because there just isn't any evidence for the suggested British "superiority" - life on the continent is quite good and in many places better than in the UK.

The dilemma is that the UK's problem with "Europe" can only be solved by the British, but this would require knowledge and engagement. Both are missing.

And if I may come back to the position of Mr Hague on this: His sound bite during Mark's report in BBC 10 o'clock news of yesterday stated that an EU "foreign minister" would not be democratic and that democracy could only come from the nation state. Both views are obviously nonsense, but this is the level of debate with which you can still score in the UK.

  • 12.
  • At 09:52 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • tom greem wrote:

ever dog as its day and one day will will get brown out along with labour and the tories can try and save britain from becoming a state of a united states of europe..This is the greatest crime ever done in history by a serving PM...

  • 13.
  • At 10:01 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Angus Gill wrote:

Well Done Gordon Brown. Who ever asked for a political union with the others in the EU? The EU is a fantasy dreamed up by politicians wanting a career path for themselves.

I have the feeling that Gordon Brown will be the best PM we have ever had economically and the worst politically.

  • 14.
  • At 10:05 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Steve Masters wrote:

I think you did well to focus on Brown's status in this piece and not on the rights and wrongs of the Treaty signing.

I am undecided on whether I would vote yes or no on the Treaty, but I am steadfast in my belief that I have been shortchanged in not being asked.

However, I'm beginning to wonder whether the Treaty and Europe are the least of our problems when we have a Prime Minister who was not directly elected, who has presided over a flawed economy and over massive financial waste, and a huge sell off of national assets. I think we have a Prime Minister who perhaps doesn't know how to engage in Europe, in foreign policy, in domestic policy or any other policy that doesn't involve the Bank of England. Even then he is on shaky ground.

Compared with the problem of having Gordon in charge, the Treaty is but a mere rash that will probably clear itself up.

  • 15.
  • At 10:06 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • George wrote:

Truely Brown is showing himself to be just plain weird by signing the thing (treaty/ constitution/ whatever) in a side room by himself.

  • 16.
  • At 10:10 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con), Lancashire, England wrote:


Your Commission source who said “Mr Bean” has made signing this Treaty “look like a dirty secret, signing it in a back room” is spot on.

The problem however for the EU, is that it is a badly kept secret as everyone knows it is the rejected Constitution wolf, in a Reform Treaty sheep’s clothing. Moreover, everyone knows it is being forced onto the peoples of Europe, not by proper open democratic means (i.e. referendums), but by manipulation, spin, broken promises and lies.

Therefore, it ill never have any moral or democratic legitimacy whatsoever and it will be a constant source of ammunition to those people like me, who one day will hopefully see my country withdraw from this disgraceful, discredited, undemocratic institution.

So I shall not be raising a glass today to mark this event, as I fear it would choke me !

  • 17.
  • At 10:10 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ken Green wrote:

Some time before the Lisbon treaty I was flying to Geneva and Peter Mandleson was in the seat next to me. He was sitting there reading printed out emails of the sort that really should not be handled in public. I was trying not to look but he was scattering these things all over the place na one of his aids kept bring him more and leaning over me. One of the emails was an exchange with the office of the Dutch prime ministers office discussing what they needed to do to be able to sneak the constitution past the Dutch requirement for a referendum.

  • 18.
  • At 10:11 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Stealth signing?

  • 19.
  • At 10:24 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Oscar D wrote:

Interesting blog post.

I think this new treaty is sensible. It makes the European union more directly democratic by increasing the power of the Parliament. It makes decision-making faster by removing some national vetoes.

It is therefore possible to justify this treaty to the public. However I don't see a concerted effort by member state leaders to do so.
Gordon Brown in particular seems to be completely ducking the debate. I rarely agree with the Tories, but perhaps they are right to call him gutless.

The treaty is better voted on in parliaments than in a popular vote. It is not a change of path but rather an incremental change in the direction that everyone is used to: that of ever-closer union.

The UK needs to have an internal debate and vote on whether they like that general direction. I hope they do, but feel that they should not remain full members if they don't. If you don't believe in a project, you should not stay at the table and sabotage it. However, it would be better for the UK and the rest of the EU if they stayed at the table as an engaged member.

  • 20.
  • At 10:26 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Jack Sillitoe wrote:

After close to fifty years as a Labour supporter, Mr Brown and his party have lost my vote. I will also do all within my powers to persuade family and friends to dump New Labour.
The promise to the British people of a referendum over the European issue was non-negotiable.
Why is New Labour so afraid of the rank and file?

  • 21.
  • At 10:42 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alex wrote:

I was interested to read that cameras will be allowed: It was very different yesterday, when they deliberately cut the mikes and failed to cover the protest some MEPs held. Do you think ignoring the protest was good or bad for the EUs already anti-democratic image?

"...the feeling that he is missing an opportunity to forge alliances and make friendships that could be important in the future."

Not a problem, Brown will not be around that long. He has refused to explain the benefits of the "Union" between England and Scotland despite a personal vested interest to do so, how do you think such a dim wit could explain this Euro Constitution mess and no promised Referendum ?

My only question is that when we leave the EU as inevitably we will, can we leave Mandy behind in Brussels or will the Eurocrats spot that one ?

  • 23.
  • At 10:48 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • David Stacey wrote:

What a shame one of the other leaders could have taken the copy of the constitution treaty to Brussels and Gordon could have signed it there. This would have saved a huge waste of time and fuel on this pointless parade to Lisbon.

  • 24.
  • At 10:54 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Peter Reed wrote:

The only reason Gordon Brown has a "clash" of diaries is because he does not want to have a photograph of him with the rest of the E U leaders flashed around the U.K. as he continues on the labour goverments quest to break up our country and give it to the foreigners that my grandparents and millions of others gave up their lives to protect us from.The people of the U.K.will pay dearly for their shameful apathy.I hope that the labour party pay dearly at the next election, and i beleive they will.

  • 25.
  • At 10:57 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ian Hymers wrote:

What is all the fuss about whether Gordon Brown attends a signing ceremony or not?
The treaty has been negotiated and approved long before the leaders of the member states have to put pen to paper, the act of which is effectively window dressing.
The other leaders should stop being so sensitive and accept signing ceremonies for what they are, yet another photo call. Perhaps if everyone accepted these events as simply part of everyday life there would be a more ready acceptance of what these treaties were trying to achieve.

  • 26.
  • At 11:00 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • liberty wrote:

So Gordon Brown is really going to do it. Despite the democratic rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters, we are all going to get a European Constitution whether we like it or not. I only fear that perhaps a democratic vote will not be enough to stop this sickening, deceitful and damn right dangerous move toward centralization of power.

Democracy will be killed with a callous Brown stain.

I hope the Irish can muster that national spirit and save the people of Europe from this monstrosity.

  • 27.
  • At 11:11 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Chris Gabriel wrote:

Wouldn't you be embarrassed about signing. Your a Prime Minister without a mandate to be in office, signing something you said you would only do after seeking the express permission of your electorate. Embarrassed, your not joking.

  • 28.
  • At 11:15 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Deborah Newton-Cook wrote:

Well. What tosh. Would have thought it came from UKIP or some other head in the sand negationists. Reminds me of the Times Headline "Fog in channel, Continent cut off from the UK".

How many people have not gone to another EU country for a holiday in the last 10 years? Not that many, I would wager. Those of us old enough to remember travelling across the Continent 20+ years ago will know what border controls, passport checks, etc. meant. A lot of time wasted and hassle. To say nothing of being ripped off every time you had to change currency. Ask lorry drivers what the advantages are of being in the EU. They are the equivilant of talking to a cabbie!!

  • 29.
  • At 11:15 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • John O'Brien wrote:

Gordon Brown is an embarrassment to us Brits living in the EU.

  • 30.
  • At 11:27 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • M. Horne wrote:

Well done Gordon!! I think that the PM's 'late' signing of the document is a best reasonable protest about the system of EU decision making on this and an expression of the EU scepticism in the UK. The tories can whinge and make political points out of this if they want, but if they do what alot of their supporters want and get us out of the EU the whinging about loss of jobs and trade will be deafening.
Some may say it is a childish thing to just not turn up, but it should be a reminder to other EU members that the UK is in the EU for the UK's interests and not for the benefit of the rest of the EU members who get more out than they put in.

Brown has misunderstood the public again. He was a passable chancellor (though with little long term planning, happy to build up debt) but is a terrible Prime Minister, he cannot lead only sit in a back room with sheets of numbers. Does he really think he can avoid the referendum controversy by avoiding the press at the Treaty signing?

You are PM now Gordon, the buck stops with you, however much you try and hide.

This is almost as stupid as thinking that claiming Gazza's goal against Scotland in Euro 96 was his favourite English people would like him. No, we just think he is dishonest. And I hate to think what Scots made of it.

"he's upset everyone without achieving anything" - never were truer words spoken.

  • 32.
  • At 12:27 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alec_in_France wrote:

Democracy RIP.
Your passing will be sadly missed.

  • 33.
  • At 12:28 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Until now I have had quite a lot of sympathy for Brown, regarding him as a victim of circumstances (Northern Crock, data "lost in the post" etc.) more than anything else. But this latest lapse - not wanting to be seen signing the treaty - I find truly dreadful. Does the man not have the courage of his own convictions? Or is it the convictions themselves that are lacking? He's supposed to be the prime minster, for heaven's sake.

  • 34.
  • At 12:30 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Jos wrote:

EU a democratic institution? Hardly. None of the proposed changes are being put to a referendum - too dangerous to ask people what they want. Plus a Commission which pays itself bloated and virtually tax free salaries and allowances. Then there is the mix of cultures and standards, any of which might be fine for national populations used to them, but mixed together one gets something which few people want or like. There is no comparison with the USA which evolved from something small and welcomed the poor and aspirational in order to develop the country. No, the EU is just a power-hungry bloc - a bigger stage for the politicians of small countries to prance about on. I like the idea of countries getting together to agree on co-operation and some common standards - and including any countries in the world. But the EU? A temporary marriage of convenience for the political classes in the lesser lights and the bigger ones like France & Germany who would like to think they can throw their weight around more effectively. Brown could have stymied the Tories and ensured himself long term popularity if he had kept his promise of a referendum (whatever the result). But he has probably consigned himself to political oblivion now

  • 35.
  • At 12:32 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I find it strange that if there is supposedly so much opposition in Britain to membership in a United States of Europe, there is no loud public outcry for some sort of vote, either a direct referendum or at least in Parliament, not by the press, not by MPs, not by the public itself. So what seems to be the problem? And it's the same way all over Europe. Is there no real opposition to this incomprehensible 400 page constitution pared of its nation state trappings which will come later down to a 250 page incomprehensible "treaty" or is Britain's idea of democracy to elect officials and just accept whatever they do without so much more than an occasional whimper if they vehemently disagree? BBC interviewed one woman who didn't know or care what the treaty is about. And they say Americans are ignorant of what's going on. If a US President tried to give up American sovereignty single handedly, there's be an impeachment...if there wasn't an assassination first. We clearly are not alike.

  • 36.
  • At 12:50 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

Perhaps Mr Brown should be a bit more like Mr Bean. At least when Mr Bean goes on holiday he inadvertantly causes havoc. This whole episode smacks of a deliberate insult to our European partners and a another political gaff here in the UK.

  • 37.
  • At 12:57 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • S.J. Fisher wrote:

Hundreds of years & millions of lives, all flush away by a single man & a party with a radiculous fantasy.

This country has fought for it's freedom from Europe for hundreds of years. Millions have given their lives for our freedom & now one man is simply going to sign it away in a backroom in Portugal. The fallen dead would be tossing in their graves if they knew. What a pathetic way to sign away freedom on one of the blackest days of our countries proud history.

We were pressured to give up our Empire for wishing to control others, know we are signing control away to Brussels.

The sooner someone takes charge & gets us off this slippery slope Labour has put us on the better, we are 'Better Off Out'

  • 38.
  • At 12:59 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Peter Millar wrote:

How sad is this country (and its Prime Minister) still bleating about its 'loss of independence' to Europe, when really it surrendered independence to the US in 1945. We have had American troops on our soil ever since, we have taken orders from the White House - when did any European country since 1945 last drag us into a war we didn't want? - and are seen around the world as the thuggish hanger-on to a bully boy (and one most sane Americans are about to reject). EU reform was necessary - we should have done more to participate in shaping it - and Gordon Brown's behaviour is both childish and plain silly.

  • 39.
  • At 01:00 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Andrew Taylor wrote:

First it's deciding not to turn up at the Africa summit, because Mr. Brown doesn't like one of the participants, then it's not turning up for the signing because the majority of the UK press doesn't want him to! (Forget the diplomatic reason for a moment).

The UK Government, and perhaps also the UK population needs to make it's mind up. Do we want to be in it (the EU) in which case we take part 100% - that means the Euro, social legislation and Schengen - or we get out. The "one foot it and one foot out" model that the UK has tried to work with for years just doesn't wash.

Much as diplomats from the other EU members might say otherwise publicly, the UK must be an absolute thorn in the side of the smooth running of the organisation, and surely knowing where Britain stands once and for all would benefit both the UK and the rest of Europe.

If it were up to me, then I'd be 100% in.

  • 40.
  • At 01:04 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Bryce Miller wrote:

Does anyone get the impression that something rotten is going on in Brussels? Two referenda decided against the constitution, so the leaders of the EU countries decided that, instead of listening to the people, they would find a way to get it through by the back door. They just made a constitutioin they could pass without asking anyone.

I don't think this is a game we want to play anymore.

  • 41.
  • At 01:10 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

This is Brown's "Chamberlain moment".

Chamberlain waved his piece of paper on Heston airport, claiming "Peace in our time", while surrendering Czechoslovakia to a tyranny.

Brown hides his piece of paper in a Lisbon backroom, claiming "it's only a treaty" while surrendering the UK to a tyranny.

  • 42.
  • At 01:14 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Its doesnt matter who is in power be it Labour or the Tories they both do and say the same things in power then switch when in opposition. The Tories wouldnt have had a referendum either if they had been in power. Pro-Euro in power Anti-Euro out of.

The fault is with us - the British public. We vote for one until they become obviously corrupt then vote the others back in. They both know their turn will come given time.

If we had someone in power that could lead from the front on Europe we might be in a better place. Instead they never try and do whats best for the UK - we just the everything watered down so they can squeeze stuff through.

Its about time we changed our political system - we havent a democracy at all - its a sham

  • 43.
  • At 01:24 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Simon Brain wrote:

For both supporters and opponents of the new Treaty, Mr Brown's behaviour is insulting. By missing the ceremony he thinks he can fool the tory press and the public about this Treaty. This shows the contempt he shows for this document which, like it or not, is serious. It demonstrates this contempt for EU issues to the other 26 leaders who were able to iron out their 'diary conflicts'. And by the way, Mark, I don't think it is really up to the Portuguese Presidency to re-arrange a ceremony involving 27 heads of government just to suit the needs of an obscure Parliamentary Committee. To put it another way: could you imagine Brown's people having to explain to the White House: "sorry, Mr Brown is in a parliamentary committee meeting and is unable to take the President's call..."?

  • 44.
  • At 01:24 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Typical PM, has "more urgent" matters to deal with rather than something more fundamentally important.

But who cares what the proles think, as long as the MPs and MEPs have a career option.

  • 45.
  • At 01:43 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • CHRIS WOOD wrote:

welcome to the eu britain is dying and will vanish from world map as a country soon ,Eu booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo that brown

  • 46.
  • At 01:45 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Good blog. Typical reactions.
The UK should not have (or have had) a referendum on this treaty. A no vote would not have satisfied those who voted no (because the fact is some of the changes in this treaty are necessary, so some form of treaty would have to have been concluded). A negative outcome in a plebiscite on such an unintelligible treaty (and the UK must bear a large amount of responsibility for its being unintelligible) would not have produced the result the no voters want.
You guys should definitely have a referendum on whether or not you should stay in the EU. That is a lot more black and white, and the outcome will have a real meaning and provide politicians on either side with a real mandate. If the vote is a serious majority in favour of leaving, then you should leave (and this new treaty provides a procedure for the first time for doing so - all the more reason to support it).
It would be a shame for Europe and even more of a shame for the UK, which gains so much from engagement in the EU. However, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

  • 47.
  • At 01:48 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Philip Moore wrote:

Bryce Miller has hit the nail on the head - to those in charge of the EU project, your democracy is a side issue at best.

Alarm bells should be ringing across Europe!

  • 48.
  • At 01:53 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Alan Davis wrote:

Congratulations must go to Gordon Brown. It Took his predecessor two full terms to become the worse prime minister in our history. However Gordon 'Mr Bean' Brown has achieved that status in just four months. Way to go Mr Bean, I mean Brown.

  • 49.
  • At 02:02 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Loderingo wrote:

Don't forget this treaty still has to be ratifyed by parliament. While I think the Commons will pass it (with Lib Dem support), getting it through the Lords may well be a different matter.

  • 50.
  • At 02:04 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Johnson wrote:

If the British people don't want to be part of the EU then simply get out and continue to be US's message boy. Surely you're not thinking you're still an empire?

  • 51.
  • At 02:05 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

I'm not sure Portugal would be willing to move the date of the signing of the EU Reform treaty just because Gordon Brown has a diary clash with a select committee in his own country. I'm sure if he had asked politely, they would have started ranting and raving and going and on and on like they do.

The fact is Gordon Brown cannot win. If he'd chosen to change the date of the select committee, the Tories would have started accusing him of putting Europe before Britain. Allow me to put words into David Cameron's mouth - "here we have a Prime Minister who says he's going to put Parliament first yet scutters off to Portugal to sign a treaty that, quite frankly, nobody in Britain wants signed."

By attending the select committee, Gordon Brown is able to do both things without any problems. The only people this upsets are those people who like picking holes all the time. Besides, Maastricht was signed without a referendum by a much junior minister and that treaty actually created the EU.

Get a grip people and give Gordon a break.

  • 52.
  • At 02:08 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Norbert wrote:

"It will be seen as a symbol that Mr Brown does not understand much or care much about the European Union."

The same can be said of most EU citizens, anyway. Does it make a difference? Not really. This is all about symbolism and nothing about substance. Considering the many opt-outs on the Treaty the UK has achieved, Mr Brown should be placed at the outer end of the picture, with a safety distance of ca. 10 yards. Then we'd be able to call it the 26 plus 1 Union.

  • 53.
  • At 02:09 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Oh please stop you are killing me.

This comparing Gordon Brown to Mr Bean has me constantly cracking up. Comparing Brown to Bean - why that's absolute comic genius.....ooh the hilarity.

Oh and the way Mark has taken the joke even further with the Mr Bean goes on holiday jest.......oh what wit, what a clever man he is. Why on earth does he stick to political reporting when satire is clearly what he was born to do.

Please stop, oh pelase stop.

My sides at hurting.

  • 54.
  • At 02:28 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Brett wrote:

Could someone please tell me what the fuss is all about? It seems as though we have nothing better to do in this country but 'bash, bash, bash'. The treaty has been signed...who cares whether it is an hour late or not, signed in a group or not? - Why all the conspiracy theories?

Now signed we can all move forwards and see whether the changes and efficiences it purports to effect do actually take place. If they don't , then we should renegotiate...Surely we should be focussing now on making the EU bureaucracy leaner and more efficient and forcing it to balance its books....Only through effective engagement can this occur..all this rubbish about signing treaties in Lisbon is a pre-xmas sideshow and quite frankly an embarassment..shame on the journalists who choose to focus on it.

  • 55.
  • At 02:43 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Richard B. wrote:

"27 leaders determined to move on. 27 leaders signalling that the Dutch and French "no" votes were a thing of the past."

I'd say that by ignoring those results they have made these "no" votes a thing of the present. The decision here in The Netherlands by the Balkenende government to not put the treaty through a new referendum has made European reform and EU itself less popular than cancer. I just hope that Mr. Brown and the Brits have a change of heart and block this monstrousity.

  • 56.
  • At 02:48 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • chris woodruff wrote:

Ok so our esteemed PM scurries in late signs on his own in the hope that we don't realise that its happened.However the bigger worry to him must be that the post of EU president with more powers will yet again mean he will be a number 2 to our very own T.Blair.

  • 57.
  • At 02:50 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Jos wrote:

Why is it that the comments from people with foreign-sounding names usually take a swipe at the UK for not being "wholly engaged" with the EU? Why is it they cannot accept that the majority in the UK are not enamoured of the EU? The EU might represent liberty and freedom for them (plus not a few subsidies), but we have had our liberty for centuries anyway. We are not recent converts from fascism, communism or other forms of state control. What does the EU do for the UK which the Common Market could not do? Nothing. Or worse. And that is why we are not in love with Brussels and its acolytes.

  • 58.
  • At 02:51 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Daniel wrote:

I was a staunch supporter of the Constitution right from its inception and still am (let's face it - it's the same document with a few cosmetic changes, one reference removed to free and fair competition and a slightly different voting system).

It is disingenuous of the government to claim that it is otherwise but at the same time holding a referendum in Britain is inapposite.

I welcome the Treaty with open arms and hope it continues to enhance solidarity and cohesion in Europe.

  • 59.
  • At 02:51 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Paul Chandler wrote:

Democracy is now dead in the UK.

Our only hope is that the Irish vote 'No' in their referendum.

How many other countries populations would reject this constitution if given the chance? unfortunately that question will remain unanswered.

  • 60.
  • At 03:00 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • true brits wrote:

dear gordon brown

You have shamed the country today signed on the behalf of the following

winston churchill
oliver cromwell

Henry VIII
elizibeth I
lord nelson
David Lloyd George
Herbert Henry Asquith
all those killed during ww2
Over two and a half million British soldiers were wounded or killed in the First World War.

thanks Gordon for making every thing we did in our lifetimes a act of nothing your a teator to you country.signed the above

  • 61.
  • At 03:19 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • concerned reader wrote:

Dear Mr. Mardell,
As a long time reader of the BBC and your column, I must express my displeasure at your new "euro-blog" format. The previous format conveyed a sense of uniformity with the rest of the BBc website, making the reader feel that your articles were just as official as the rest of the website. This new format, with its amateur "blogging- for- beginners" layout , detracts from the integrity of your articles. If you are going to have your article in blog format, at least make it be a little flashier, maybe on Ruby rails?

Thank you very much

  • 62.
  • At 03:36 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Andy Kelly wrote:

So Gordon skulks in via the kitchens to sign away British powers .... about what we have come to expect from him ... if he had any pride in what he was doing he would have turned up, but he's a political coward (as we saw over the election decision) so opening a bottle factory or something took precedence.

  • 63.
  • At 05:14 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Philip Edwards wrote:

The comments here comparing the signing of the Treaty to a takeover by Nazi Germany highlight very well the fact that so many of us in the UK are living in the past with dreams of empire where foreigners are inferior and disputes are settled by putting up barriers and mobilising armies.

To all those criticising the EU: take a long hard look at the "democracy" in the UK. An unelected PM who can sign treaties without consulting Parliament, who can call an election at his whim, who is under no obligation to call referenda and who can only be called to account during a weekly 45 minute Parliament session. All this without even mentioning the total absence of a proper national constitution.

Perhaps a spell outside of the EU would do the country good? Perhaps the cold winds of change would provide an opportune moment to take stock?

  • 64.
  • At 05:45 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Derek Tunnicliffe wrote:

Gordon Brown's late arrival has been noted in France - tho not with great consternation. Most of the comments posted on the le Figaro site ignore it, or maybe they agree with Sarkozy, who told British journalists "we need Gordon"!

Referendum-lovers would be happy to see that their counterparts here in France are hogging the blogs. I happen to believe that if one elects a government to act in what they view as "the best interests of the country" in foreign affairs, then Presidents or PMs have the right to sign such treaties on their country's behalf.

Can't wait for more Mr Bean comparisons (he's a national hero here in France).

  • 65.
  • At 06:18 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

"They will feel Mr Brown signing alone is an appropriate symbol of a Britain, which already has refused to join the euro, the passport-free area and common policies on migration; a Britain which is semi-detached from the European Union."

This was a brilliant piece of journalism which accurately sums up the UK’s position on the EU.

I am genuinely embarrassed today. Let’s get one thing straight; Democracy has not been surrendered in any meaningful way. If anything Liberal Democracy in the world is being extended through the Institutions of the EU. Those of you on this Blog who “bang on” about the “democratic deficit” and “the end of democracy” should remember that the European Commission has power over these crucial areas

• Central banking
• Constitutional matters
• Criminal and civil prosecution
• Technical administration and
• Economic diplomacy

When I last looked at the election manifestos of the UK political parties I noticed that NOT ONE of these issues was the subject of “democratic contestation.” So shut up and give us all a break.

Those of you who want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty merely want an opportunity to voice your opinions on the whole issue of Europe and not on the specifics of the Lisbon text. So you too can shut up and give the rest of us a break.

No. I am embarrassed because our Prime Minister continued his curmudgeonly approach to Europe and our European neighbours and partners.

His skulking around Lisbon in this indecisive and awkward manner should be the cause of national embarrassment, not the Treaty itself.

When’s Tony coming back?

  • 66.
  • At 06:19 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Richard Tyndall wrote:

This is a sad day.

It now makes it all the more likely that the only way we will ever be rid of the horrors of the EU is through violence.

The prospect of the new Euro Gendarmerie being fought on the streets of Britain is now moving ever closer.

  • 67.
  • At 06:31 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • JOHN PARFITT wrote:

Neither Gordon Brown or anybody else can 'give away British powers' Leaving aside that power actually comes from money,men and (important) commitment, governments don't own their powers, they hold them in trust and cannot commit future governments for ever. End of story.

If Mr Cameron can be persuaded that what we actually need is something like a three-speed Europe with central admin of the free trade area we were sold, intergovernmental oversight of genuine cross-border matters like the environment and repatriation of everything which is wholly or mainly internal to nation states, sticks it in his election manifesto and (if he wins) go back to Brussels and say 'this is how it's going to be' he'd sideline the nutty xenophobic fringes and put the small parties which could cost him 30 seats out of business. No, I'm not a member of his party.

John P

  • 68.
  • At 06:37 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Samantha wrote:

I upset and disheartened by all those who think G.Brown's decision was weak, lacking judgement and sly. He has just done something that nobody else dared do in mainland Europe, and that is protect itself. We can and and will and MUST protect ourselves to a certain extent - the results of today would have made it clear to the UK our government is prepared to support ANY decision the EU parlemant would and could make. Lets stand with them,just not live in their pockets, I say and make sure they know WHO we are and WHAT WE STAND FOR. Its hard enough being a british languages student as it is here in Germany, - the one thing they believe is the the british are the best at ENGLISH, and at most TOLERANT. I would see this as our most prosperous ASSET, lets not allow this to faulter. We need identity like everyone else. If we spoke french or spanish, it would be easy, yet we don't. PROTECTING our beliefs as a nation is in our best interests, and the only interest the rest of the EU prasidents have - so why is it so hard for us to accept? Another thing, if you do care to look at - there is absolutely no mention of G.Brown's absence, because they don't care....even less than we do. That, in my opinion speaks volumes.


  • 69.
  • At 06:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Sylvain Palmier wrote:

Why did Great-Britain came into the Union in the first place?
Charles de Gaulle was against the entry of your country, but you insisted and finally came in. Since then you disagree with every European project that are proposed.

We do not need Great Britain in the European Union. The true question is do you want to be a part of it?

If your answer is no, please, feel free to leave it.

  • 70.
  • At 08:43 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • JorgeG wrote:

‘They will feel Mr Brown signing alone is an appropriate symbol of a Britain, which already has refused to join the euro, the passport-free area and common policies on migration; a Britain which is semi-detached from the European Union. Of course that is what many, probably most, British people want.’
Mark, this is exactly the problem with the British position. It is difficult to understand where Britain stands. Is it in or is it out? Neither of the two, just somewhere in between. There are two posts on this thread that perfectly exemplify this deep contradiction.

The first one is #39 who speaks for the position of a minority in the UK: Perfectly put: ‘Do we want to be in the EU, in which case we take part 100% or we get out.’ It gets really interesting when you see which political representatives of the British people are supporting this – common sense – position. The LibDems, who want IN (hopefully 100%) and are the only mainstream party advocating an IN or OUT referendum. The other is, ironically, the much derided UKIP. A marginal party that at least, unlike the two major parties, has a grown-up, clear and coherent position in relation to the EU. They want OUT.

The second post exemplifies, in my opinion, the position towards the EU prevailing in this country. Obfuscation, sulking from the sidelines, indulging in EU bashing, or just plain abuse, but never really expressing a coherent policy. In this respect I take issue with #16 ‘Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con), Lancashire’. Instead of throwing the customary abuse at the EU you should throw it at your own party, because, as far as I understand, they don’t have an OUT policy, unlike yourself. What their policy is is just as obscure as a foggy night, but one thing is certain. If and when your party forms the next British government they have ZERO chance of moulding the EU according to the Tories vision. Very simply, because the majority of the EU countries want political integration - whether that leads to a federal Europe or not remains to be seen, but integration they want - and that is called DEMOCRACY, because the EU is formed of 26 and a half countries (the half being of course, ‘half in-half out’ Britain). It is just plain silly to argue for a radically different EU when the UK is not even part of the REAL EU, the one of the Euro, Schengen and the Bill of Rights. As for the position of the current party in government, well, we have seen it all today; does it need any further comment?

  • 71.
  • At 08:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

True brits of comment 60.
Grow up! We live today, not yesterday. Your nationalist rhetoric is sickening. You, not Gordon Brown bring shame to this country. Saying this treaty betray's British war dead is peverse and wrong. It is also a wild and bizzarely forced statement, lacking in maturity, intelligence and humanity. We always have and always will be part of Europe - history which you call on so subjectively at least teaches us that.

  • 72.
  • At 09:29 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

To "True Brits" (60),

What an amazingly offensive comment. Do not dare to speak on behalf of those who died in combat! Their sacrifice is not an excuse for your arrogance and selfishness.

  • 73.
  • At 09:35 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • O. A. Lewis wrote:

There can be no doubt that this is an act of gross betrayal. Be you for or against this EU treaty, the simple matter of the fact is that the Prime Minister has prevented the British people from having their say in the development of our relationship with Europe. Not only did he promise us such a voice in 2005, but earlier this year when we asked for that right, Mr Brown gave us, to all intents and purposes, the finger. This is not democracy, this is enforcing a state and means of government on a resentful people, and such a settlement will only serve to foster such resentment. It is pretty clear that the British people don't want this treaty (Just read any poll) and the government's response has been to steamroller over the people's requests. Do the political elite really believe that just oppressing the people's voice will change anything in the long run? By enforcing their Federal vision upon an unwilling people the EU leaders are just going to build up contempt for the EU as a whole, rather than use this opportunity to build a more popular EU - one focussed on trade and co-operation that the people of Europe will be more hospitable to - a Europe that will endure.

  • 74.
  • At 10:05 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Howard Barnes wrote:

I don't really have a comment on the behaviour of Mr. Brown beyond the fact that it was churlish and childish. As a political statement it said nothing, it did not satisfy his apparent need to be seen as Euro neutral and it certainly did not molify the entrenched Eurosceptics. I tend to agree with many contributors when they request a full debate (as long as a full debate is not interpreted as The Sun's megaphone diplomancy)on the merits and drawbacks of being in the European Union. For myself I have been carrying out this debate for the last 30 years and have consistently come down on the side of being in Europe and being an active member shaping its future. The UK habit of being obstructionists, making the machinery cumbersome and inelegant with opt outs and op ins and then blaming Europe is hypocrisy of the highest order.

  • 75.
  • At 10:47 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • G Manson wrote:

Who mentioned anything abot foreigners being inferior. The argument is about who makes the laws for our country, the duly elected government or some unelected comissioner we have never heard of.

The PM is being criticised, rightly, for refusing to honour a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the issue. Any pretence that the treaty is different to the constitution is simply a barefaced lie.

The EU deserves criticism for simply ignoring any no vote that may inconvenience it's march to federalism.

A spell outside the EU hardly seems to have done Switzerland any harm after all and we may even grow to like making our own decisions on whether EU criminals get to live in the UK and such like.

  • 76.
  • At 10:49 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Brussels Ex_Pat wrote:

#63, Philip, If you honestly think this treaty will change the endemic malaise and corruption of the EU then you are on a different planet. Have a really good look at the EU and then say that the complaints from the UK are not warranted, or better still try working in the EU or in an area with EU buildings and experience the reality. The only job almost as bad is working for the NHS, which like the EU is guaranteed to have you sectioned unless you are either totally brain dead or hate the plebs you are supposed to be helping.

  • 77.
  • At 11:12 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Antoine Lescargot wrote:

I would support the proposal of message 63 of having the UK having a little spell outside the EU and being considered by the rest of the EU as a non-European country.

That might help making two things much clearer: whether the rest of Europe needs the UK in any way (I think not, given the state of the British industrial and agricultural productions); whether the UK needs the EU in any way. This second bit is more tricky. The UK does not need the EU for defense and foreign policy. Anyway for that it goes hand in hand with the US (MDA 1958 revisited 2004 as a proof). For the economy more generally, how would the UK fare if it had to rely uniquely on exchanges with the Commonwealth, and the rest of the world outside the EU?

And that would make easier all comments putting the UK in the premier league once comparisons with continental Europe would become meaningless.

  • 78.
  • At 11:25 PM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

I think more is said about the EU than Gordon Brown if only the media gets particularly vexed that he does not attend the main signing of the EU treaty. Perhaps it highlights neatly the EU bureaucracy's irrelevance and introspection.

  • 79.
  • At 12:01 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • P. Råman wrote:

Who is this guy Brown, arriving late and signing the treaty in a side room? The semi-relevant leader of some marginal Balkans country? What a farce, simply to canvass the europaranoid voters who (like some of the people who commented on Mark's piece so far) seem to regard all involvement with the outside world as treason to the memory of Oliver Cromwell (!) - see post nr. 60.

No, really, it is reassuring to read all those overwhelmingly sensible comments by British people who do not think they are the only human beings on earth. But I just can't resist commenting on a few posts by traditional nationalists:

'What does the EU do for the UK which the Common Market could not do' (post 57)

- You are living in the past. There is no such thing. There is just the EU. Go and trade with somebody else if you so desperately want to leave a (much) smaller ecological footprint.

'Our only hope is that the Irish vote 'No' in their referendum' (post 59)

- Why should they? Only the European integration has made them truly independent (of their former colonial overlord). Before, practically all their trade was with Britain, making Irish independence all but nominal. Now, they are a respected (not to mention rich) country like France or Germany, and their prime minister does not have to slip in through the kitchen door like your man...what's his name again...Brownie?

  • 80.
  • At 07:47 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Ben Hemmens wrote:

Its curious to watch the UK going through exactly the same rituals, in the same words now as in the 80s. I guess there's been a small growth in the mildly pro-EU voices, presumably because more people have actually gotten direct experience of some aspect of the EU in the meantime.

What the British discussion has in common with most of the other countries is that the criticism of the EU is really based on frustration with your own national political systems and situation. Many of the EU members have got themselves into an internal political dead end, or need a changing of the guard. The old conservative/christian democrat versus labour/social democrat divides have become particuarly unfruitful since these traditional camps have ceased to represent natural agglommerations of interests. The debates of today cut right through each party. And yet these old dinosaurs are the big party machines in each country and enormously hard to replace. Folks, if such a monumental achievement as the rise of the Lib Dems is not reflected in Govrenment, and they are kept out so long that they start fading away again, you have a major system problem. What conceivable new political movement can arise in that system, short of a violent revolution?

A major British problem with the EU is its lack of clarity. It doesn't cut swathes through things, it negotiates, it makes exceptions, it looks after everyone's interests a little. Brits can't quite get their heads around this although God knows they are frustrated with their own excessively clear-cut electoral system that used to turn the country on its head every 5 years and has now switched over, it seems to cementing governments in power for another 5 or 10 years after their best-before date. And gives them a working majority as a reward for 35% of a 60% voter turnout, i.e. a mere 22% of the electorate.

What you guys really need is simply more people in leadership who actually know European cooperation from the inside before they get to office. Ever since you missed the chance to have Ken Clarke or Chris Patten as PM, you've been struggling along with leaders who have as much idea of Europe as George W. Bush. And given that the rest of Europe does indeed have strong prejudices about British insularity - nourished carefully by yourselves over the centuries - it takes a different sort of character to break out of that.

And the rest of you: go and study what the (directly elected, by you) European Parliament actually does, and read a few papers from the Commission on a subject near to you. You might just find that they make a lot more sense than you expect.

3. At 08:53 AM on 13 Dec 2007, BernieZ wrote:
"Many will perhaps feel he's spot on, in refusing to engage with this cumbersome and often frustrating machine"
well, the "European machine" is cumbersome exactly because of all the vetoes, special clauses, etc. (some of which the new treaty tries to remove). If the British really want a more streamlined "machine", they have to transfer powers to Europe, so Europe can decide faster. And if they (or anyone else) want a more democratic Europe, they have to transfer powers to the European Parliament...easy, no?

Lets see, If I join a gentlemens club, if its aims and ideals change, I am free to leave, with NO COST to me, the club loses a disgruntled member. However, due to this reform/constitution treaty, I may now leave as long as I meet certain conditions imposed/asked of me by the EU. Including the EU dictating what terms I must adhere to in order to leave.

So thats the first reason I want out.

Just how can transfering power to the EU be more democratic? the UK has control given to it by the people, who elect the government. If the government does not do as we wish, we can reject it at the next election, and put into office one that does do as we wish. So how therefore can the EU be more democratic if it restricts the government which I voted for, enacting laws that I want enacted, because it has control?

Sorry its a no brainer, the EU is less democratic than the system we have now! No amount of lies or spin can change this simple fact!

The simple fact that the Constitution was rejected by france and netherlands, yet the EU then changed the title to a reform treaty with 96% of the constitution the same, then stopped those countries having another referendum. Citing that it wasnt a vote against the constitution, it was against the governments of the day. Smacks of despotism, ignorance and a failure to accept the truth.

The one defining reason that the majority of the UK is against the EU, is that the political classes across the whole of the EU, will not permit any of the public to have a say. Why, because they know it will be outright rejection, and they cannot have us mere mortals scuppering their gravy train!

  • 82.
  • At 09:35 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Brown is a liar, a coward and a bully. He has betrayed all of us in the Labour Party who expected so much more after Tony Blair. Indeed whatever Tony's faults - he was at least efficient and competent. I shan't be quitting the Party, but neither will I be campaigning for them, or voting for them, until Brown is gone or our election promise on a referendum honoured.

  • 83.
  • At 10:02 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

What a lot of nonsense here, though some good sense too (my namesake Mr Hemmens especially). I have some sympathy with a busy Mr Brown not wanting to use up TWO whole days on this fairly substance-free exercise, going to Lisbon and then Brussels: all so the dear Portuguese, whom I used to love but am now beginning to find irritating with their bombastic former PM now President of the Commission egging them on, can have yet another ceremony and a Treaty of Lisbon etc etc. Yes he's handled the PR appallingly, and it recalls his stupid and childish refusal to wear the appropriate clothes at official functions etc. But then some of the UK's better and wiser politicians have traditionally not been very good at the PR stuff - the rest of us need to be a bit smarter and recognise what matters and what doesn't. The media could help a bit.

  • 84.
  • At 11:04 AM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Tel Tetel wrote:

The fact is that the Brits after begging De Gaulle for 10 years decided by referendum (I am against referenda) to join the EU and the "ever closer union". Since then they try to discredit the notion of a united Europe and object to most proposals. They are doing errands for the USA so that there will be no competition from a united Europe or from the successful EURO currency. Now the PM has to play hide-and-seek to sign treaties, with Britain becoming the laughing stock of Europe. Britain should quit the EU like gentlemen and nobody will miss them. Unfortunately there is no mechanism for kicking out whining sour members of the EU.

  • 85.
  • At 03:09 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Julian wrote:

No-one ever advertises that they are setting up a totalitarian state. I don't remember gas chambers featuring in Hitler's manifesto or Gulags in Stalin's.

Let's remember, almost every other country in EU has lived under a totalitarian regime. That is why Britain always stands out as a different system.

This constitution allows EU a "ratchet clause" where they can introduce new powers without any need for another treaty. therefore, they can do exactly what they want.

This "harmonisation" will mean our justice system will go in favour of the Napolionic Codee most of the other countries have for starters.

Let's see how soon the first "red line" gets ruled unlawful by the European Court.

Returning from Ireland last week I have seen how rich the Irish have become from Europe.
The UK is missing out so much by staying on the sidelines and we are suffering by not taking part fully.
We need full intergration soon.

  • 87.
  • At 05:23 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Neil Basset wrote:

Re post 69, Sylvain may have a poor memory but it was not the British who stopped the latest European project of the constitution but the French and Dutch. I am surprised he does not offer some criticism of these Nations.

To coninually highlight one nationality as causing all the problems, when it is clear people in other countries hold similar views smacks of prejudice or perhaps even racism.

Remember also it is the French who block the reform of the common agricultural policy, the French who will not allow the riddiculous Strasbourg junket to end.

I do not criticise the French for this, it is natural for countries to pursue their own narrow national interests, even if it is to the detriment of the E.U. as a whole.

What I want to point out is that before you take the moral high ground and criticise others you need to look at your own back yard first.

  • 88.
  • At 06:41 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Sylvain Palmier (69)

do you know WHY C. de Gaulle wanted to keep Britain out for a while?

France was nearly bankrupt and couldn't afford the lavish subsidies it paid its farmers anymore. De Gaulle's party relied on the agricultural vote so they decided to find external funding. They wanted other countries to fund French farmers. This is how the CAP was born (none of this nonsense about shortages because those were solved a decade before the CAP).

France wanted the system for CAP funding in place. The CAP funding was to come from 2 sources. First from contributions and second a compulsory tariff if any EEC country imported foodstuffs from outside the EEC.

After the model for CAP was finished it was France's interest to get Britain in. In essence, the disproportionate size of France's agricultural sector meant that the setup of CAP would disproportionately benefit France (France only ever supports policies that are beneficial to it, it ignores the rest). Britain would not only contribute to the general EEC fund, but also would have to pay extortionate tariffs to the EEC if it wanted to continue trading with the rest of the world. Of course, the French said, Britain can always buy French produce (which was inferior and but for tariffs more expensive).

You see, the ones who love the Eu are inward looking and looking to the EU to insulate them from the big bad world, the ones who favor parliamentary democracy and thus oppose the EU look to the world. Once again, us EU-sceptics hold the moral high ground.

  • 89.
  • At 06:51 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • David wrote:

Mr. Bean really is an embarrassment.

My view is that if the EU had any genuine interest in acquiring a democratic image then nobody in their right minds would ever have wanted to push this constitution er treaty through after clear messages from central members of he EU.

Of course if they had confined themselves to writing an intelligible constitution, one that normal people could understand IE something similar in intent to the US constitution, one that provided things that people understand as relevant and care about (typically freedom from unnecessary bureaucratic intrusion), the whole shoddy undemocratic mess would have been avoided as it would have been seen by the people as good for the people.

So all that said, as you will have guessed I didn't want the con-treaty - sorry - to be signed. However if it is going to be signed by the UK with flagrant disregard for any notion of a democratic mandate, do it like a man worthy of running a country not a petulant schoolboy forced to sit down and do his homework!

I am hugely embarrassed to represented so badly by this man.

  • 90.
  • At 10:01 PM on 14 Dec 2007,
  • Philip Edwards wrote:

Reply to A Connor (no. 81):

- "due to this reform/constitution treaty, I may now leave as long as I meet certain conditions imposed/asked of me by the EU. [...] So thats the first reason I want out."

Not true: the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty means that Parliament only has to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 for the UK to legally cease to be part of the EU. The new provision in the Reform Treaty ensures that the withdrawal is properly dealt with. There is a precedent here - Greenland left in 1984.

- "Just how can transfering power to the EU be more democratic? So how therefore can the EU be more democratic if it restricts the government which I voted for, enacting laws that I want enacted, because it has control?"

Not true - this is the fundamental misunderstanding of how the EU operates. According to Article 3 of the Treaty, the EU only acts in certain areas and then when certain conditions are met. It is mainly where there is a cross-border aspect, e.g. extraditing criminals, money transfers, the environment, recognition of foreign qualifications, cross-border mergers etc. It generally seeks to improve the overall quality of life for EU citizens, for example by introducing legislation which bans dumping sewage into rivers and which has led in this country to wildlife re-claiming formerly polluted habitats.

Furthermore, the principle of "subsidiarity" means that the EU doesn't try and achieve what would be better done at national level by individual states. The new Treaty improves on that by allowing national parliaments to veto laws in certain areas.

How can the government allow the people to have a say when, as you demonstrate, the EU is not at all understood? It would be like allowing a vote on whether to remain part of the UN or the WTO, or even to leave the gold standard.

Reply to Manson (no. 75)
"A spell outside the EU hardly seems to have done Switzerland any harm"

The UK cannot compare itself with Switzerland whose success is founded on its neutrality. This is not the case with the UK which likes to have a presence on the international stage and has participated in high-profile military actions. Btw, the Swiss application to join the EU is still legally on the table.

Reply to Brussels Ex_Pat (no. 76):

"endemic malaise and corruption of the EU"

What malaise? The EU economy is growing at an average of 2.5% per year. Corruption is a problem and the EU should do more to tackle it. However, it is a worldwide problem and not just restricted to the EU.

"try working in the EU [...] The only job almost as bad is working for the NHS"

But surely it's the famous "gravy train" which everyone keeps talking about?

  • 91.
  • At 02:54 AM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

The capacity of British governments to get the worst of all worlds on Europe amazes me. Surely no serious person can think that Britain's long-term interests are served by exclusion from the European group? Dependence on America (the only real alternative) is far more pernicious, potentially.

In which case, grudging Gordon should have signed up with a smile; got the points; and then continue to negotiate like hell on the inside without having already generated a fund of ill-will among the European partners.

The subservience of successive UK governments to saloon-bar xenophobia (which somehow never seems to extend to the Americans despite their essentially foreign nature) sickens me rather. The Daily Mail and the Murdoch press can't be that powerful can they? Can they?

  • 92.
  • At 12:11 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • ATSV wrote:

I'm honestly sick and tired of the idiotic isolationist viewpoint that many ageing members of British society seem to take.

We are already part of Europe, Geographically (adjacent), Economically (reliant) and Culturally (lacking).

I'm currently a student, I study International Relations and European Studies - as of yet (in final year of undergraduate studies) I have found 2 people that fully disagree with being a member of the EU - one is a UKIP member, the other is a die hard Tory, both are ostracised from the group. The rest of us can be seen to see themselves as forward thinkers. We aren't collectively more knowledgable than anyone else, we don't claim to know more but we are (for the most part) young, relatively knowledgable and driven. Not ageing and miserable with imperial aspirations and some crazy concept that being "British" should be enough to keep us out of a Union that is not just for nationalistic good but for the good of a continent and everyone within it.

It's a post-national citizenship in Europe, I'm European. I want nothing to do with the old guard that exist, complaining about how Europe is trying to ruin its traditional ways.... whilst nibbling on their croissant and thinking about how their holiday to a nice warm country will be fantastic because they can show of the hooligan culture that seems to be Britains only cultural export...

I'm tired of it, I really am.

  • 93.
  • At 12:19 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • ATSV wrote:

I'm honestly sick and tired of the idiotic isolationist viewpoint that many ageing members of British society seem to take.

We are already part of Europe, Geographically (adjacent), Economically (reliant) and Culturally (lacking).

I'm currently a student, I study International Relations and European Studies - as of yet (in final year of undergraduate studies) I have found 2 people that fully disagree with being a member of the EU - one is a UKIP member, the other is a die hard Tory, both are ostracised from the group. The rest of us can be seen to see themselves as forward thinkers. We aren't collectively more knowledgable than anyone else, we don't claim to know more but we are (for the most part) young, relatively knowledgable and driven. Not ageing and miserable with imperial aspirations and some crazy concept that being "British" should be enough to keep us out of a Union that is not just for nationalistic good but for the good of a continent and everyone within it.

It's a post-national citizenship in Europe, I'm European. I want nothing to do with the old guard that exist, complaining about how Europe is trying to ruin its traditional ways.... whilst nibbling on their croissant and thinking about how their holiday to a nice warm country will be fantastic because they can show of the hooligan culture that seems to be Britains only cultural export...

I'm tired of it, I really am.

  • 94.
  • At 05:22 PM on 15 Dec 2007,
  • Your Friend wrote:

My greetings to all British people, our centuries-old friends. Portugal and Britain have a lot in common, apart from being the world's oldest allies. Two old nations, surviving against the odds and against the many foreign potencies that, throughout history, have tried to dominate us. Now our sovereign powers are being handed over by oportunistic politicians regardless of the opinions of the people. Who would have thought that our two great nations would one day surrender without a fight?
Another thing we have in common is our expertise on dealing with traitors: you really did quite a remarkable job with Guy Fawlkes, and we had our own too (Miguel de Vasconcelos, d. 1640) and we have acquired a taste for making them fly out of windows. As long as there are true Brit and Portuguese patriots, I don't think that modern Guy Fawlkes and Vasconcelos should sleep too comfie. Long live Europe, based on peace-loving and independent nations!

  • 95.
  • At 10:56 AM on 17 Dec 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

In the UK if our government upset us we can elect a new one every five years. LABOUR TORY OR LIBERAL that way they either please the people are lose their jobs. Its called democracy.

The EU has no opposition parties so their is no election every five years or ever. The EU is in power forever. Who do they have to please? NO ONE. They can change the rules allowing MEPs to be re-elected every ten years or twenty or even life. WHOS going to stop them? The fear of not being re-elcted? BUT there is no re-election there is no opposition no OTHER PARTIES.

This patheticly simple equation is way past the ability of those who are PRO EU to understand and even most who are not..

HOW PATHETIC THE so called media is to hide something so easy to understand and so obviously making the EU a dictatorship.

Where is common sense?

  • 96.
  • At 01:07 PM on 18 Dec 2007,
  • Sean O'Harcai (Ireland) wrote:

It now seems that Ireland has the deciding vote on the Treaty, and yet again just like the Nice Treaty in 2001 there is no information available to the electorate. The Irish government has made no effort to publicly publish any relevant facts of the Treaty to the electorate. Even at the Government Publications office and the EU Commission offices in Dublin the public cannot get a hold of it. I am doing a thesis on the Treaty of Lisbon and find it frustrating that since the end of September Ireland has no written copies of the Treaty to give out to its citizens. It seems as though Bertie Ahern and our Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern do not want to this information available to the public. All of the big parties in Ireland like Fianna Fail, and Fine Gael are for the treaty and Sinn Fein are against. In 2001 there was a no vote for the Nice treaty and it was seen by a lot as a victory for Sinn Fein, in my opinion the government is holding back on information to its citizens to push for a "for" vote and avoid giving Sinn Fein any publicity. The Referendum is due to be held in Febuary/March and the Irish electorate are on the verge of making a very important decision which will affect the lives of over 500million people and not one copy of the Treaty is available. One word springs to mind "farce"!!!!

  • 97.
  • At 02:23 PM on 19 Dec 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

The ignorance of 'Steve' (post 95) is so complete it's breathtaking. 'No opposition parties in the EU' - so all the MEPs agree on everything? Sure, right. 'They can change the rules' on electing MEPS - ahem, the rules for electing MEPs are set by Treaty signed by 27 democratic governments - do you think even one of them would sign up to a change giving MEPs jobs for life? Ditto for Commissioners. Go and learn a bit, think a bit, express yourself reasonably then maybe a few people will listen to you.

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