19 FEBRUARY 2003

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PM’s visit to London

Jack Straw recalls his foolish days in the No movement

Saviour Balzan reporting from London

London, Foreign & Commonwealth Office - "I told the Prime Minister some of my personal history. I was in the ‘No’ movement in 1975, an advisor to the (late) Barbara Castle. With hindsight I think the British people made the correct decision in voting for Europe."
Jack Straw was addressing the press and Prime Minister Dr Eddie Fenech Adami, who is on a one-day visit to the capital.
"I would like to congratulate the Maltese government for the negotiation package it brokered with the EU," Straw said.
"The decision to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the referendum is very much a decision to be left to the Maltese people."
Quizzed by a member of the British press on the Iraq crises and the position taken so far by EU candidate countries, Jack Straw answered; "The candidate countries have every right to express their views on the crisis in Iraq."
Straw would, however, not answer a question put to him by the same journalist on France’s position.
A reporter from Super One asked what would happen to British investment on accession.
Mr Straw said he would not be led into predicting anything, but said EU membership contributed to reaffirming the UK’s economic stature.
As Straw talked one could see the changing of the guard on a bright but frigid London late morning from the windows of the press conference.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met the Prime Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the meeting was scheduled for 20 minutes, but in fact it went on for 35.
Following the meeting the PM and his entourage, which included Maltese High Commissioner George Bonello Du Puis and his personal assistant Richard Cachia Caruana were whisked away for a scheduled meeting with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.
None of the press was allowed to accompany the PM on the visit.
In an impromptu press conference at Malta House, the Prime Minister said the meeting with Mr Straw was "very interesting". He said the timing of the invitation was decided by Prime Minister Blair and goes to prove the importance the UK gives to Malta’s EU accession.
The Maltese premier’s visit also included a meeting with the British Prime Minister.
It comes at a crucial time for Malta in its run-up to the 8 March referendum and a new low for Tony Blair, who has lost a substantial number of public approval points over the last months because of his position on Iraq.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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