British Conservatives went on the warpath today after the German foreign minister Joschka Fischer claimed a European federation led by Germany and France was the answer to the EU's problems.
In the bluntest appraisal yet of the EU's future, Mr Fischer said the "finality" of European integration required "nothing less than a European Parliament and a European government which really do exercise legislative and executive power within the Federation".
The alternative - a standstill in EU development - would be fatal, particularly for Germany, he warned.
His speech, made in Berlin last night, prompted an immediate statement from Downing Street pointing out that they were his personal views and were only held by a minority.
But shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude said: "He has spectacularly blown the lid off Europe's superstate agenda.
"Herr Fischer calls for the creation of a 'European Federation' with a 'European Parliament and a European Government' exercising power over Britain."
Michael Portillo, shadow chancellor, said: "These comments are just further proof that the vast majority of politicians in Europe want EMU to lead to full political union and new country called Europe."
Mr Fischer, assessing the prospects for EU expansion from 15 to possibly 30 member states in the next few years, every stage of EU evolution over the last 50 years up to the introduction of the single currency had depended essentially on the alliance of Franco-German interests.
The Downing Street spokesman refused to get into detail about Mr Fischer's vision of the future EU, but said: "In the end, the people of Europe will decide these things."
Minister for Europe Keith Vaz said that Mr Fischer's comments did not reflect Germany's official position on the future of Europe: "What we need to do as a country is continue to positively engage with Europe. You don't have to do it in the way in which Joschka Fischer suggests."
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman, asked about Mr Fischer's comments, told Today: "These reflections Minister Fischer has made are very legitimate, as is the dialogue they will create, and they should be actively pursued."Reuse content