Brown comes clean on Blair presidency

By staff

Gordon Brown and David Miliband have revealed how talks are proceeding in Brussels about Tony Blair’s potential presidency of the EU.

Mr Brown insisted no decision could be made while the Lisbon treaty had not yet been ratified by the Czech Republic, whose supreme court is still assessing whether it interferes with national sovereignty.

But Mr Miliband interjected: “There’s no point in hiding it. There’s a debate happening about what sort of role we want the president of the council to play.”

Mr Brown said: “There’s going to be discussion on the margins of this council.”

But the prime minister was careful to stress that Mr Blair had not actually declared his candidacy yet, despite reports in today’s Times that he was interested.

“Tony Blair has not declared himself a candidate at this stage,” Mr Brown said.

“That would have to happen before any decision is made.

“I don’t think a decision is going to be made either today or tomorrow. The Lisbon treaty hasn’t been signed.”

There was an embarrassing moment just afterwards, when the foreign secretary was asked how he would feel being the European Commission’s high representative – a foreign minister role which has been mooted for him if Mr Blair fails to secure the presidency.

The question was asked twice, and both times Mr Brown interrupted to insist: “David is not available for the job.”

Mr Brown also criticised Conservative opposition to the move.

“I think it’s in the British national interest to have a British person as president and I must say I’m surprised by the attitude of the opposition to this,” he told reporters.

Mr Blair’s position became weaker yesterday after European media outlets began reporting opposition to his presidency from German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who previously welcomed the idea.

Ms Merkel was reported as saying she did not want to keep on meeting “Mr Flash” all the time, although that quote remains unconfirmed.

Yesterday Gordon Brown told the Commons he would be “very happy” to support a bid by Tony Blair and is now expected to spend his time outside the main meeting lobbying Mr Blair’s case.

EU leaders discussed joint strategies to help the European economy out of reception, as well as climate finance and institutional issues.