Major gets tough: he skips dinner

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John Major boycotted the formal dinner at the Dublin European summit yesterday, the same day that he stressed in the Times how important it was for Britain to "stay at the table" in EU discussions to influence decisions, writes Stephen Castle. In a calculated diplomatic snub, he left Dublin early for London to prepare for a television interview this morning, forgoing the dinner of salmon and Irish beef washed down with fine Spanish and French wines. A British official claimed it would have been impossible for Mr Major's plane to get away in time for a reasonable arrival time in Britain. But Irish officials pointed out that the dinner was due to end at 9.30pm, and one added: "If Major had wanted to get to the dinner, but leave early, we would have helped him." A swift game of musical chairs avoided any charge that Britain might be employing "empty chair" tactics. Malcolm Rifkind, Foreign Secretary, was due to take Mr Major's place among the heads of government last night, with his place at the separate dinner for foreign ministers being taken by the British ambassador to Brussels, Stephen Wall.

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