Brussels retaliates over Brown criticism

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The Independent Online

The European Commission yesterday hit back at claims that British firms are being shut out of lucrative European public procurement contracts, saying the UK has itself failed to introduce laws guaranteeing fair play.

The European Commission yesterday hit back at claims that British firms are being shut out of lucrative European public procurement contracts, saying the UK has itself failed to introduce laws guaranteeing fair play.

Officials in Brussels gave a frosty response to the leak of a document which argues that EU governments discriminate against British firms and rig rules to aid their own companies.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is expected to raise the issue with fellow EU finance ministers at a meeting in Brussels today.

But his critics say the tactic of releasing the document selectively before today's meeting falls into a pattern of consistent Eurosceptic briefing from the Treasury identified by the former UK ambassador to the EU, Sir Stephen Wall.

Jonathan Todd, the Commission spokesman for the internal market, said: "We do not have any evidence that British companies have been singled out for poor treatment.

"It would have been helpful, if Mr Brown had concerns, if he had informed the Commission and not just the Westminster lobby [of political journalists], because we are in a good position to judge the situation across Europe."

Mr Todd added that the Commission has issued a formal warning to the Government for failing to implement the EU "Remedies" Directive on public procurement, which allows companies to seek compensation if tendering procedure is unfair.

The UK is one of eight nations which have not taken account of the "Alcatel" judgment in the European Court of Justice which says that, where there are complaints, countries should allow for the tendering process to be suspended before it is too late.

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