Lisbon: The endgame

By Alex Stevenson

The Lisbon treaty is edging closer and closer to becoming reality, as the future of Europe dominates Britain’s domestic political scene.

Downing Street was dragged into the convulsions triggered by the looming prospect of Lisbon’s implementation today.

It was forced to deny claims Gordon Brown’s staff had asked civil servants to lobby on behalf of Tony Blair.

The prime minister’s spokesman said: “There wouldn’t be any sense in the prime minister doing that given that (a), we haven’t got the treaty ratified, and (b), Tony Blair hasn’t decided whether he will be a candidate.”

The return of the former prime minister to active politics as president of the EU Commission has tempted Mr Brown, foreign secretary David Miliband and the minister for Europe, Chris Bryant, to voice support.

But the Conservatives remain unequivocally opposed to Mr Blair’s candidacy. In a press conference today party leader David Cameron said that an “all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting” president like Mr Blair was far from the “chairmanic” kind of president he would prefer.

The Tories’ autumn conference earlier this month was overshadowed by a lack of clarity over whether the party would carry out its pledge to hold a referendum on Lisbon if it had not yet been ratified.

Only the Czech Republic stands in the way of complete ratification of the Lisbon treaty. It is the only one of the EU’s member states to withhold its ratification, but its position could shift soon as a legal challenge to Lisbon is heard by the country’s constitutional court.

A group of Czech senators have filed a complaint against the Lisbon treaty, arguing it is unconstitutional because it infringes on Czech sovereignty.

The country’s eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, could find a way round the problem by negotiating an opt-out from the treaty’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.