David Prosser: Brown plays for time

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The Independent Online

Outlook Downing Street was at pains last night to portray the deferral of the vote on the European Union's alternative investment fund management directive as a victory. France knew it had the votes necessary to push the directive through the Ecofin meeting in Brussels unamended, they suggested, but agreed to carry on talking after an intervention from Gordon Brown. See what dividends the Prime Minister's strong relationship with Nicolas Sarkozy has produced.

Well, that's one way of looking at this outcome. Another would be to acknowledge that a public and bitter row today is in no one's interest if an accommodation might be reached in a couple of months' time. And what might make all the difference during the intervening period? Well, if you're cynical, you might say that the British Government would not feel so uncomfortable about giving in to the French and their allies once the election is out of the way.

Gordon Brown really may go on battling to prevent a directive which, if it goes through in its current form, would do damage to the competitiveness of the City. But don't be too surprised if, after the election, Britain quietly gives way on a good deal of its current bargaining position. That's if Labour wins – if not, this matter will be the Tories' problem.