Euro club shows 'gatecrasher' Brown the door

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The Independent Online
GORDON Brown, the Chancellor, subjected himself to formal humiliation last night as ministers from the 11 euro-zone countries gathered at a chateau in Luxembourg for the inaugural meeting of their single currency inner circle, Euro-XI.

As representative of Britain's European Union presidency, Mr Brown was insisting on his right to attend the opening formalities at Senningen Castle, but was told he would have to leave the room almost immediately. He was not allowed to attend a dinner that followed the first meeting of the new G8-style body which will co-ordinate economic policy in the euro-area.

Senior officials of the euro-zone countries expressed amazement at his decision to muscle in on the informal meeting in the light of Britain's decision to opt out of the single currency. It merely highlighted Britain's political marginalisation, they said.

"He is a gatecrasher," said a Bonn source. "He is bringing himself down to a level even ambassadors would not accept." Another senior EU diplomat described British strategy as "naive" and said it reflected the difficulty London has in understanding that Britain will not be at the heart of things.

Tony Blair battled tooth and nail last year to prevent the establishment of Euro-XI without Britain. At a summit of EU heads of government last December he claimed that he had managed to reduce the status of the new group to an informal dining circle and that Britain would be automatically present for any meaningful discussions.

But other governments insist the 11 participating ministers alone will decide what constitutes a matter of "common interest" when meetings will be opened up to the four "outs", Britain Denmark Greece and Sweden.

Last night's first meeting was organised during the British EU presidency in what some officials believe was an attempt by the French to score a political point. Mr Brown was replaced in the chair after a few minutes by Rudolph Edlinger, the Austrian finance minister whose government succeeds Britain in the EU chair next month.

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