Gordon Brown says Britain will start pulling its troops out of Iraq by the end of May next year at the latest. The prime minister was speaking after his surprise visit to the country. “The fundamental change of mission which I described in this House last summer will take place, at the latest, by 31 May 2009. At that point, we will begin a rapid withdrawal of our troops, taking the total from just under 4,100 to under 400 by 31 July,” Brown told parliament.His visit to Iraq on Wednesday coincided with the drafting by the Iraqi government of a law obliging British forces to withdraw in mid-2009. After talks in Baghdad, Brown met UK soldiers based near Basra and paid tribute to the 178 British service personnel killed in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was overthrown five years ago.