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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blair out! (say Brownites)

Mild panic setting in among Brown's people about the prospect of Blair stitching up a deal on the future of the EU Constitution just before he leaves office.

According to a piece by James Blitz in the FT this morning:

“Senior ministers believe Tony Blair must give way to Gordon Brown well before a European Union summit this June, warning the UK's negotiating position [on the EU Constitution] could be undermined if the prime minister were still in office.”

A “government figure” is quoted saying, "The risk, to be blunt, is we'll be represented by a lame duck premier and that is worrying.”

An unnamed Minister is quoted saying, "You could see Merkel and Sarkozy doing a quick and dirty deal at the June summit to get parts of the constitution approved. If that happens, Britain's clout in these complex negotiations would be undermined by having a prime minister who is just days from leaving office. We'd be in the strange position of Gordon having to defend agreements in the Commons that he hadn't signed up to in Brussels. I'm not sure that's a comfortable position for a new prime minister to be in, or for his government."

As we argued in our doc on the EU in 2007 - it looks like Brown is not going to be in charge during any of the key summits (there are about half a dozen high level meetings planned) unless he can get Blair to go before the local elections. Broon doesn't really want to stir up trouble again after the previous farce (nicely described by one insider as the 'butter knife coup') but as the FT piece shows - he doesn't want to get stitched up by Blair and Hoon on their way out the door either.
In recent months, Mr Brown has refrained from putting any further pressure on Mr Blair to clarify his departure plans, reiterating that position in a television interview at the weekend. Close allies of the chancellor said last night they were confident Mr Blair would not sign any deal on the European constitution that undermined the national interest.
Is this a veiled threat we see before us?

*UPDATE* Someone is obviously stirring this up - also now being written up Ben Brogan

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