Brown to miss official signing ceremony for new EU treaty

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Gordon Brown will travel to Lisbon tomorrow to sign the new European Union treaty but will miss the official signing ceremony.

The Prime Minister has dropped plans to snub his fellow EU leaders by staying away from the Portuguese capital because of a "diary clash". He had already agreed to face questions from senior MPs in parliament tomorrow.

Downing Street announced yesterday that Mr Brown will fly to Lisbon after the MPs' session and should be there for at least part of a working lunch. He will hold one-to-one meetings with some EU counterparts including Jose Socrates, the Portuguese Prime Minister.

But Mr Brown will be the only one of the 27 EU leaders not to be at the official ceremony at the historic Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. He will sign the treaty later.

His planned absence from Lisbon raised eyebrows in other EU capitals and at his own Foreign Office, provoking fears that it would be seen as anti-European. But aides insist that he always wanted to fulfil both engagements and had now found a way to do so.

Eurosceptics criticised the Prime Minister's stance. Neil O'Brien, of the I Want A Referendum campaign, said: "This is a ludicrous attempt to avoid being seen signing up to the treaty."