Grumpy BrownSo Gordon Brown boycotted the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon because Robert Mugabe was there. Yes, he’s gruesome and evil (Mugabe I mean), but a whole host of other African leaders were there too – it wasn’t an EU-Zimbabwe summit after all. Plus Angela Merkel has been very critical of Mugabe from the summit. I wonder what Brown hopes to have achieved with all of this – his stance looks quite petty and hypocritical, especially as the UK government had the king of Saudi Arabia in the UK for a state visit this autumn – and I’m not sure you can argue their human rights situation is any worse than Zimbabwe.

But anyway, that’s done, Brown did not go. Now for the second challenge in a week – does Brown go to Lisbon this Thursday to sign the text of the EU Reform Treaty? Apparently there’s a diary clash – he’s supposed to be at the Liaison Committee in the House of Commons on Thursday. Now, I’m sure that meeting the chairs of 30 select committees in Westminster is important, and we would not want the PM to show any contempt for Parliament, would we. But can he be serious? Plus can any other EU leaders take Brown seriously in the future if he does not bother to turn up? The treaty is going to go ahead anyway, whether Brown attends this week or not. Anyone who is remotely in favour of Britain having decent relationships with other EU countries (ignore the content of the Reform Treaty) should be aghast if he does not attend – 2 no-shows in a week will be completely unacceptable.

[UPDATE 12.12.07]
Seems that the compromise is for Brown to arrive late and sign the Treaty on his own. Nothing like Britain being at the heart of Europe on this one then.


  1. Yes, Minister.

  2. The Bloody EEC

    Hear hear! It’s about time someone stood up to Mr. McBroon and his European cronies and told ’em enough is enough! Did you know, since 1986, it’s been illegal for British butcher’s shops to sell link sausages to children under the age of ten because those gravy-train riding Euroswine are worried they’ll use ’em as nun-chucks to attack Dutch tourists with? It’s an outrage! Are we, the British, going to stand idly by and watch fair Britannia be grabbed roughly by the hair and see her head driven into the knee of brutal European conformity? Never! I’ll swim through blood before I’ll allow a coven of unelected Belgian devils dictate what sausages I can buy, what shape they are, or what’s meant to be in ’em. We don’t want your bloody rules and regulations, the EEC. Keep your nose out of affairs that don’t bloody concern you!

    For further rabid anti-EECism, visit – where the unstoppable force of cowardly European injustice meets the immovable object of British outrage and shatters into a million pieces.

  3. I think he should have gone. First, either all the EU would boycott Mugabe (since they all imposed sanctions) or no one – in this case everyone would have the right to criticize him as Merkel did, all well planned. Secondly, it’s also a bit questionable how come the EU then has meetings with China, also not the best human rights performer.

    I just think that the EU should be consistent on things like these: you impose sanctions = you practice them. Of course this becomes confusing in the world of multilateral politics, once the other African states backed up Mugabe, but it’s a point of principle.

  4. Jeremy Hargreaves

    (Should have been “Brown NOT going” in first line of my comment above, of course – sorry, note to self to read through my comments more carefully before posting them in future…)

  5. Jeremy Hargreaves

    On Mugabe, I think Brown going is a bit of a no-brainer, actually – there is complete cross-party consensus among the UK parties that Mugabe should not be entertained in this way (he is actually supposed to be banned from the the EU at the moment, and the US strengthened its sanctions further against Zimbabwe just last week).

    On the treaty signing, no-one’s mentioned it here perhaps because it’s so obvious, but this is surely Brown trying to suggest to the British political world that he is distancing himself from the treaty, without actually having to say anything. I agree that him not going is deeply crap but I don’t think it has very much wider significance than that.

  6. Robert

    Unfortunately, both these incidents make Brown look petty and childish and embarass the country. If he disagrees with EU policy and approach, other leaders are hardly likely to take him seriously if he’s constantly taking his toys and going home.

    After all, if things are decided in his absence he can’t really complain about them. Then again, he has always taken a rather patronising attitude to other EU countries – implying that they’re rather stupid and if only they’d be more like Britiain. Not the best way to win friends and influence people.

  7. Justin

    No, of course the summit is not a waste of time, but that does not mean that Brown is not entirely right to snub it

  8. Both no-shows are, of course, symbolic.

    I suppose that the EU-Africa summit might have been a difficult choice for Gordon Brown, who has shown a lot of concern for Africa, but Robert Mugabe is a disastrous ruler who should not have received backing from other African leaders. Lifting Mugabe’s travel ban was a mistake.

    Brown’s foreign policy speech was less than well developed on Europe. The time of the signing ceremony in Lisbon has been known well in advance. Repeated snubs from the UK Prime Ministers may please a Europhobic crowd at home, but do they serve British interests in Europe and in the world?

    Do they even serve the more limited interests of Mr Brown himself?

  9. john somer

    Remember that when the EEC was being discussed, Mc Millan said “Tell them I’m busy with Cyprus…”
    Eternal Britain,,,, I wonder whther Gordon would say “Tell Dubya I’m busy with Europe”

  10. Sorry, are you saying we should not in any way be concerned that China is seeking to dominate African markets? And that and EU-Africa summit is a waste of time?

  11. Justin

    I’m afraid we disagree. Brown is entirely right to boycott the summit. This is a tawdry meeting called in response to the concern of the Europeans that China is seeking to dominate African markets and negotiate lucrative trade agreements. If our committment to human rights and democracy mean anything, they must mean not giving dictators PR opportunities.

    The analogy with Saudi Arabia is misleading. There is some progress being made towards liberalising their regime. I accept that it is slow (too slow) and appears to be based on political expediency, rather than a committment to democratic values, but the Saudis are not willfully killing their own people, nor are they bankrupting their state.

    As for the Liason Committee… I have more sympathy with your position. I would be amazed if it couldn’t be re-scheduled. Given his terrible debating skills, one suspects he’d rather be at the signing ceremony in Lisbon, where no-one can ask him any difficult questions! 🙂

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