Mr Clarke, whose pro-European views are increasingly out of step in William Hague's Tory party, is thought to be tempted by the prospect of being "Mr Europe" when the single currency comes on stream.
A senior EU source in Brussels was "not surprised" that the Government was tempted to push the ex-Chancellor for the post. "Clarke is the kind of big hitter we need," he said.
European heads of government will meet in summer 1999 to choose a new president, when Jacques Santer's current five-year term begins to run out. Mr Santer is not expected to seek a second term.
Mr Clarke's former Tory colleagues would privately be glad to see the back of him. "It would suit us fine if he went to Brussels," said one shadow minister.Reuse content