Tony Blair was determined to keep away from being seen as “snuggling up” to Italian chief Silvio Berlusconi, official paperwork of the early-noughties have revealed.
The then-prime minister needed to make use of talks to develop the UK’s relationship along with his controversial Italian counterpart, whereas, “holding our noses”, as one official put it.
As Mr Blair ready for a summit in Rome in February 2002, Quantity 10 was anxious about how the British media would painting the talks, in keeping with newly-released Whitehall papers.
However advisers additionally believed an obvious shift in direction of Euroscepticism by Mr Berlusconi’s authorities supplied an opportunity to counter French and German ambitions for a extra built-in EU.
Mr Berlusconi, who died last month, was broadly condemned on the time for boasting of the “supremacy” and “superiority” of Western civilisation on a visit to Berlin in 2001, remarks seen as anti-Islamic within the wake of the 9/11 terror assaults.
Britain’s ambassador to Rome Sir John Shepherd instructed Downing Avenue there was a “actual alternative” to work collectively whereas “holding our noses and staying alert to the dangers as we achieve this”.
International Workplace official David Whineray wrote of wanting “to keep away from ‘Blair snuggles as much as Berlusconi’ headlines,” and presenting the talks as an “‘Italy-UK (not Blair-Berlusconi) summit”, papers launched to the Nationwide Archives present.
Stephen Wall, Mr Blair’s Europe adviser, wrote: “It is going to be to our benefit to work with Berlusconi, however to not be seen doing so too clearly.”
Mr Blair agreed, including in a handwritten be aware: “However he’s important within the alliance towards federalism.”
Different authorities information printed on Wednesday present Margaret Thatcher privately praised Mr Blair over his help for the US seven months after al Qaeda passenger jet hijackers carried out 4 suicide assaults, together with on the Twin Towers in New York Metropolis.
The previous Conservative prime minister, who died in 2013, put apart her political variations with the Labour chief in a handwritten be aware dated 4 April 2002.
She wrote: “I enormously admire the resolve you’re displaying. You’ve ensured that Britain is called a staunch defender of liberty, and as a loyal ally of America. That’s the easiest status our nation can have.”
She signed off: “With all good needs, Margaret T.”