Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Europe 'must lead downturn fight'

The European Parliament speech came at the start of a pre-G20 tour

Gordon Brown has said Europe is "uniquely placed" to provide world leadership in the economic downturn because of its history of co-operation.

He told the European Parliament that the UK was not "in Europe's slipstream but firmly in its mainstream".

The EU had to promote a "principled economy", involving the implementation of "tough regulatory standards".

Mr Brown was speaking at the beginning of a tour which will also take in the US, Brazil and Chile.

The speech comes ahead of the G20 meeting, in London, on 2 April, which brings together leaders from industrial and emerging market countries.

'One Europe'

Mr Brown called for a "truly global society", with greater "fairness for all".

He told MEPs in Strasbourg: "Today there's no old Europe and no new Europe... We have one Europe and it's our home Europe.

"I stand here today proud to be British and proud to be European: representing a country that does not see itself as an island adrift from Europe but as a country at the centre of Europe, not in Europe's slipstream but firmly in its mainstream."

World leaders will meet next month in London to discuss measures to tackle the downturn. See our in-depth guide to the G20 summit.
The G20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the US and the EU.

He added: "A good society and a good economy must have a strong set of values - not values that spring from the market, but values that we bring to the market."

Mr Brown said: "I propose that we in Europe take a central role in replacing what was once called the old Washington consensus with a new principled economy for our times."

He reiterated the warning against protectionism that he gave in a speech to the US Congress earlier this month, calling it "the politics of defeatism and retreat and fear".

Mr Brown said: "Instead of heading for the rocks of isolation, let us together chart the course of co-operation. That is in all our national interests."

He insisted the arrival of US President Barack Obama heralded "a new era of heightened co-operation between Europe and America".

Mr Brown added: "Never in recent years have we had an American leadership so keen at all levels to co-operate with Europe on financial stability, climate change, security and development, and seldom has such co-operation been so obviously of benefit to us and to all the world."

For the Conservatives, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: "Gordon Brown is leaving Britain in Europe's slipstream. No EU government is following his VAT cut.

"The French president and the German finance minister have held up Gordon Brown's policies as an example of what not to do.

"After 12 years as chancellor and prime minister Gordon Brown has given Britain some of the worst public finances in Europe and a recession that the IMF predicts will last longer than other major economies'."


Earlier Mr Brown met international banking chiefs at Downing Street.

In the run-up to the London summit disagreements have emerged on the need for further fiscal stimulus, so the leaders will be looking for areas of agreement that will ensure the success of the summit.

Following Mr Brown's speech he will travel to New York for a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and then to Latin America for talks in Brazil and Chile.

On Monday Mr Brown talked on the telephone to Mr Obama about the summit.

The UK leader wants to secure a co-ordinated world response to the economic downturn at the G20 summit.

Chief executives from major countries across the world will be urged to restore lending and will be warned of the risks of a return to protectionism.

'Important role'

Financial Services Authority chairman Lord Turner will present them with his reform proposals for banking regulation, which Mr Brown has promoted as a blueprint for other nations.

Mr Brown hopes to use the gathering to forge a "global new deal", although the US administration has said the president was not seeking to negotiate "specific commitments".

Downing Street said Mr Brown's tour was necessary, insisting that Latin American countries would "play a very important role" in fighting the economic downturn.

Among the leaders Mr Brown is expected to meet on the trip is Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez, who is expected to raise the issue of the Falkland Islands with him.

Ms Fernandez announced in her inaugural speech that Argentina's sovereignty over the islands the country calls Las Malvinas was non-negotiable.

Mr Brown's spokesman confirmed that the pair were expected to meet but added that it would "come as no surprise to anybody that our position on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands has and will remain unchanged".

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