Gordon Brown today acknowledged that Tony Blair is likely to face a stiff battle to become the first president of the European Union.
At a press conference to mark the end of the two-day EU summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister insisted that there had been no formal discussion of the presidency ahead of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
But while he insisted that Mr Blair remained Britain's choice for the position, he acknowledged that there would be other candidates competing for the post.
"I think I am right to say that Britain has someone in Tony Blair who would make an excellent president of the Council of the European Union. I think there are many people who are members of the council who accept that and believe that to be true," he said.
"I recognise also that there are many candidates who may come forward, some have already indicated their intention to do so, but I do believe that Tony Blair will remain an excellent candidate."
Mr Blair's apparently fading hopes received a fresh setback from French President Nicolas Sarkozy who said that there would be a joint Franco-German candidate for the presidency.
In an apparent reference to Mr Blair's early status as front-runner, he added: "The first names to come out of the hat are not the ones that are finally chosen."
Mr Brown said that he believed that EU leaders had last night "cleared the way" for the Czech Republic to ratify the Lisbon Treaty - which creates the post of president - completing the ratification process.
He said that it was now up to the Czech Constitutional Court which meets next week to rule on whether it could accept the treaty.
"I believe that we have created the conditions in which the Czech government can ratify the Lisbon Treaty and that that treaty can come into force quickly."
It is only at that stage that the European member states will discuss the position of the presidency and the commissioners, and. of course, the high representative.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband, appearing alongside Mr Brown, again ruled himself out for the position of high representative for foreign affairs.
"I am not a candidate. I am not available. I am proud to be Foreign Secretary in Gordon's Government and that's what I am determined to do," he said.
Mr Brown said it was "possible" that there could be a special summit to sort out the new posts if ratification goes ahead before the end of the year.Reuse content