March 4, 2009 2:00 am
Gordon Brown emerged from the Oval Office yesterday clutching the prized endorsement of Barack Obama for Britain's "special relationship" with the US and support for his plan for a global regulatory shake-up and crackdown on offshore banking centres.
The US president delivered a propaganda coup to Mr Brown, hailing Britain as America's "strongest partner" in the fight against terrorism and backing the prime minister's attempt to borrow his way out of the recession.
His warm reception from Mr Obama will come as a boost to Mr Brown, struggling in the opinion polls at home and faced with damaging suggestions of a rift with Alistair Darling, chancellor.
Mr Brown yesterday gave no hint he intended to follow Mr Darling in admitting mistakes in his handling of the economy. The closest he came was accepting that the 1997 regulatory regime he set up needed updating.
Mr Brown's team was anxious about the level of Mr Obama's enthusiasm for the transatlantic relationship, but the US president laid on the flattery, insisting ties were "not only special and strong but will only get stronger".
The first European leader to enter the Obama White House, Mr Brown will complete a two-day visit today with a speech to a joint session of Congress.
Mr Brown also engaged the president on global economic reform ahead of the G20 summit in London next month.
The UK delegation was encouraged by the president's commitment to overhaul regulatory structures he claimed dated back to the 1930s "in most countries".
Mr Obama also stressed the need for a global fiscal stimulus, following on from his own $787bn plans. Mr Brown will bank that endorsement as Mr Darling draws up controversial plans to borrow for a further fiscal boost in next month's Budget.
Mr Brown and Mr Obama will join forces at the G20 to crack down on what the prime minister called "shadow banking systems or regulatory and tax havens", putting offshore centres on blacklists if they fail to meet western standards.
There is no sign yet that the G20 is any closer to decisive action on the big issues, such as stopping countries from erecting non-tariff barriers to trade and agreeing to ensure countries with big budget and trade surpluses act to limit the global recession.
Additional reporting by Chris Giles
Brown in Washington, Page 3 Editorial Comment, Page 14
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