Gordon Brown claimed that he was unable to attend the signing of the EU reform treaty in Lisbon last week because of a 'diary clash'. But surely his meeting with the House of Commons Liaison Committee could have been re-scheduled? As it was, Britain was the only country not represented in Lisbon at head of government level and David Miliband, standing in for his boss, was reduced to shaking hands with an usher.
Brown also went to the EU summit in Brussels via London and it was his first visit there since he succeeded Tony Blair in June. When he was Chancellor Brown was far from keen on attending meetings of the Ecofin Council. Is Brown disengaging from Brussels?
The problem is that Britain has to be there to exert influence and the efforts of the Permanent Representation will not succeed if they are not backed up at the highest political level. Britain's influence is needed to counter French protectionism with Mr Barroso softening his pro-market views to take account of French and German concerns as he seeks reappointment in 2009.