Blair hopes fade as Lisbon’s raised

By Alex Stevenson

Britain’s diplomatic offensive to win European politicians over to a Tony Blair presidency of the European Commission appears to have failed.

Downing Street began playing down the hopes of success for Mr Blair’s potential candidacy after talks on the fringes of the leaders’ summit in Brussels yesterday.

A lack of support from European socialist parties appears to have hampered the former British prime minister’s chances.

No 10 expects rejection of Mr Blair is a “clear possibility”, despite Gordon Brown openly admitting yesterday he would advocate Mr Blair’s cause in Britain’s “national interest”.

The setback came as one of the biggest obstacles to the eventual ratification of the Lisbon treaty, under which the new presidential role would be established, was removed.

The Czech Republic, whose signature is required to make Lisbon a reality, had been reluctant to ratify the treaty without an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Sweden holds the rotating EU presidency and has made this a possibility, meaning eurosceptic Czech president Vaclav Klaus is expected to sign the treaty shortly.

“The road to ratification stands open,” Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said.

Mr Klaus will sign the treaty only if the Czech Republic’s constitutional court rejects a submission from a group of right-wing senators that the Lisbon treaty infringes the eastern European country’s constitution, however.