Tony Blair's chances of becoming the first president of the EU have been dashed under a secret veto deal Gordon Brown has struck with France and Germany, it emerged last night.
The former prime minister is said to be "interested" in the £200,000-a-year job if the terms are right. But the British, French and German governments have all privately agreed not to back a candidate if any one of them has objections to him or her, diplomats have revealed.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has lobbied on behalf of Mr Blair, but the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is against the move. Mr Brown has said Mr Blair would make an "excellent" EU president, but has not explicitly backed him as a candidate. The deal means the decision is now out of the Prime Minister's hands.
"We have agreed with France and Germany not to back a candidate one of the others doesn't want," a British diplomat said.
Yet there is new speculation from senior EU sources that Mr Blair is lining himself up for the role of high representative for foreign affairs – the second permanent position created under the Lisbon Treaty. The job, effectively the EU's foreign minister, has more real power than the presidency.
Mr Blair has recently let it be known in the highest circles of the EU that he would want a "full-time" job similar to his current post as Middle East envoy.