Brown formally backs Blair as candidate for 'President of Europe'

Post will be created as early as January once the Treaty of Lisbon is ratified

Tony Blair won the formal backing of Gordon Brown yesterday as Britain's candidate to become the first "President of Europe".

Downing Street endorsed Baroness (Glenys) Kinnock, the Europe minister, who said in Strasbourg: "The UK Government is supporting Tony Blair's candidature for President of the [European] Council." Asked if the prospect had been discussed with Mr Blair, she said: "It is the Government's position. I am sure they would not do that without asking him." Mr Brown's spokesman said: "What the Prime Minister supports is Tony Blair's candidature for the President of the European Council if Tony Blair decides that that is what he would like to do and as and when such a position exists."

The post would be created, possibly as early as next January, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. The biggest remaining hurdle is a second referendum in Ireland in October, but opinion polls suggest people will vote Yes this time.

Allies of Mr Blair said he was not campaigning actively for the job but would be interested if it involved being a figurehead representing the European Union on the world stage. "He doesn't want to spend his time chairing meetings of EU leaders," one said.

The scope of the new post has not been defined. Brussels insiders warned that Mr Blair could miss out unless he shows he is hungry for it. "He has to really want it and work for it to be successful," one said. Even his critics admit Mr Blair is the most heavyweight of the candidates in the frame. But he faces opposition in some quarters. Some countries do not want Britain to land the post because it is not inside the eurozone and nor is it party to the "open borders" Schengen agreement. Although memories of Mr Blair's role in the Iraq war have faded, it still rankles for some European politicians.

Other potential candidates include Felipe Gonzalez, the veteran former Spanish prime minister. He is said to be favoured by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who initially championed Mr Blair. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is thought to be lukewarm about the idea of "President Blair".

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said the former prime minister should be let "nowhere near the job". He said: "The creation of a new EU President could be enormously damaging for Europe. Any holder is likely to try to centralise power for themselves in Brussels and dominate national foreign policies. In the hands of an operator as ambitious as Tony Blair, that is a near certainty."

A spokesman for Mr Blair said: "There is no campaign. As we have said time and again on this, there is nothing to be a candidate for since the job doesn't actually exist."

Denis MacShane, Labour's former Europe minister, said: "Blair cannot avoid having his name being dragged into any list of names for top jobs. Does he really, really want it? Does he know himself?"

One EU official said: "The difficulty is that no one has come up with a proper job description. People say the exact nature of the job will be shaped by whoever is appointed, and whoever is appointed must be a former president or prime minister of a member state."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before