Politics: Redwood bound for Zog, says Labour

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The Independent Online
John Redwood lambasted Tony Blair for leaving Britain for Tokyo today after launching Britain's European presidency in London. Colin Brown says Labour accused Mr Redwood of `heading for Planet Zog'.

Arch Euro-sceptic John Redwood was attacked by Labour last night of "spinning out of control" after accusing Tony Blair of turning his back on Britain's role in Europe for planning to fly to Japan for a summit today after launching Britain's presidency of the union. "John Redwood is so out of touch, he is now spinning out of control on his return to Planet Zog," said a senior Labour party source.

Mr Blair will today be boarding an aircraft for Japan after launching Britain's presidency of the European Union in London with Jacques Santer, the EU President. He will be taking a leading role in an EU-Japan summit in Tokyo with Mr Santer, but his decision to fly out of Britain so soon after his new year break in the Seychelles was attacked by arch Euro-sceptic John Redwood.

"When the Prime Minister decides to launch his presidency from the Seychelles and returns to Britain briefly before going off to Japan, he is sending a message to our European partners he wishes to turn his back on them," Mr Redwood said.

Mr Redwood said that Mr Blair and the Cabinet had failed to prepare for the six-month presidency. He said they should have spent more time preparing Britain's agenda to keep EU taxes low, markets flexible and protect small firms from red tape.

Denying that he was being trivial, Mr Redwood said he wanted Britain to use its presidency to police the legality of countries planning to go ahead with a single currency in 1999 without meeting the requirements in the Maastricht treaty.

He also gave his strong backing to the stand by the Conservative leader, William Hague, against a single currency. Meanwhile, senior Tory sources said Chris Patten could still return to Mr Hague's team, in spite of signing the letter to The Independent challenging his leadership on the single currency.

"Chris knows that in politics nothing matters. People have short memories," said a former minister. Mr Hague yesterday made it clear he would be seeing Mr Patten in the next few weeks to invite him back, providing he toes the Shadow Cabinet line ruling out a single currency for 10 years.