Leading article: Still semi-detached from Europe

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The Independent Online

The chickens of Gordon Brown's G20 summit in London came home to roost yesterday in Brussels at an EU summit in which Britain once again appeared embattled and bereft of ideas. In London in April the Prime Minister staked his claim as a leader of the western world in its fight against the recession on a close alliance with the United States and a demand for reflation – which most of Europe rejected.

In Brussels he has appeared a lonely figure attempting to bat away demands for Europe-wide financial regulation that would badly impact on London and a concerted effort by France and Germany to bring new life to the "European Project". Ireland now seems ready to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty. Berlin and Paris appear determined to start moving as fast as possible on the treaty's commitments to a common European foreign policy, a new European post of President and a streamlined decision-making process.

You can understand Mr Brown's problems. More than half of those who voted in Britain's European elections earlier this month put their cross by parties that actively sought getting out of the Union altogether, or, like the Conservatives, proposed a radical renegotiation of our membership. Blame it on the expenses scandal, as Mr Brown does, or on the difficulties of Labour, but to Britain's partners he now leads a country which appears to have become semi-detached from the Continent.

Not that Mr Brown is alone in some of his distrust of EU actions at the moment. Not everyone wants the European Central Bank to act as umpire of the financial system, even for those not in the euro. Most oppose the continuation of the subsidies enshrined in the Common Agricultural Policy, and not a few are resisting the French drive towards a more federal grouping.

But there is a pressing demand, accepted even in London, for a European response to the major issues of recession, global warming and security, and an emerging sense in many capitals that the Union must start to act together, putting the Treaty of Lisbon quarrels behind it. Mr Brown has ideas, especially on aid and economic recovery, but too often he seems wedded to the trans-atlantic alliance and only lukewarm at best about the world the other side of the Channel.

There is no point in a British Prime Minister simply opposing certain items and hanging back on the others. If we are to influence policy, we are going to have to throw ourselves into the debate as a committed member of the Union.