Monday, May 21, 2007

Brown will be "pro-Europe, pro-reform"

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's relationship with Europe will not change under Gordon Brown, Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday, predicting London would remain "pro-Europe" and in favour of reform in the European Union.
"The basic position of the government will remain unchanged, I think it'll be pro-reform and pro-Europe," Blair told a meeting of European business leaders in London.
Blair, will hand over power to Chancellor Brown on June 27, after 10 years as premier.
"The most important thing for us is to have a strong position in Europe but use it to argue the case for all the reforms and changes in Europe that are necessary and I'm very confident that will remain the position of the new prime minister," he said.
Brown is widely held to be more Euro sceptic than Blair. He kept Britain out of the euro currency on economic grounds, despite Blair's belief it was the country's destiny to join.
Brown attended EU finance ministers meetings episodically and often issued admonitions for Europe to reform its economic policies and free up its markets.
Aides say Brown is not against Europe, however, and that he believes EU cooperation is essential to tackle issues like climate change and terrorism. Analysts, though, expect him to drive a harder bargain than Blair.
Blair said political change in a number of countries meant that Europe had a great opportunity to push for economic reform.
"There is every possibility I think with the new leadership in Germany and in France and also here, where we'll continue the policies we've been pursuing as a government ... of getting the right attitude towards the economy of the future," he said.
But he said strong protectionist forces still existed in the EU and called on business to argue for reform.
"I sometimes think that business in Europe does not make its voice heard vigorously and robustly enough," he told top executives from companies including British Airways, Rio Tinto, Telefonica and Repsol YPF.
"There's a very good opportunity for business at this point of change, and where there are these possibilities for the future, it's important that business ... gives a clear statement of where it thinks the European economy should go," he said.
As Blair met with the business leaders, the Conservative Party said his presence as prime minister was pointless given he would soon hand control to Brown.

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