Brown faces European critics

By Alex Stevenson and Ian Dunt

Gordon Brown has addressed the European parliament, telling his audience he is “proud to be British, proud to be European”.

In a speech remarkable for its unashamedly pro-European rhetoric, Mr Brown boasted that the Commons has ratified the Lisbon treaty by a large majority, earning loud cheers in the hall.

“Today we enjoy a Europe of peace and unity which will truly rank among the finest achievements of human history,” he said.

“We are stronger together, safer together, than we ever are apart.”

The prime minister is in Strasbourg to meet with MEPs about a European solution to the global financial meltdown.

The open praise of his speech can perhaps be explained by the frantic efforts being made by British officials to get European partners on board with a coordinated global fiscal stimulus ahead of the G20 summit in London next month.

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“Every part of what has been a shadow banking system must come under the supervisory net,” he continued, arguing that the G20 summit would be the “beggining of the end” for the tax haven system.

Mr Brown carried the theme into a generalised attack on “unbridled” capitalism.

“Just as globalisation has been crossing national boundaries, we now know it has been crossing moral boundaries too,” he said.

Last week European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso signalled his enthusiasm for a stronger international regulatory framework at European level than will be established at the global level.

But many MEPs are still hostile to Mr Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” remark, which was resurrected by protestors outside the Lindsey plant when they went on wildcat strike – an event which saturated media coverage in Italy.

Tensions among Europe’s political parties are especially potent at present as campaigning for the European elections gets underway. Voting takes place on June 4th.

Opposition parties wasted no time cricising Mr Brown’s speech.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: “Gordon Brown is leaving Britain in Europe’s slipstream. No EU government is following his VAT cut. The French president and the German finance minister have held up Gordon Brown’s policies as an example of what not to do.”