Tony Blair has played down suggestions he could seek the job of president of the European Council, amid speculation the former prime minister is looking for a high profile return to European politics.
In a speech to the CBI on Monday morning, Blair insisted he was not eyeing up the position currently held by former Belgian leader Herman van Rompuy. "I'm not a candidate, don't get my position mixed up with this, that's not going to happen," he said.
Blair lost out to van Rompuy when the position was first created in 2009. Instead, Britain was given the foreign policy portfolio in the European Commission.
However Blair's pointed interventions into the European debate have stoked speculation that he is once again angling for a top job in Brussels. In a speech at London Business School he set out a "manifesto for change" across the continent in response to the rise of euroscepticism.
His meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel in the wake of last week's European election results has also been seen as him positioning for a comeback.
The former prime minister re-ignited the suggestion he was looking for a way back into European politics in 2012, when he called for a directly elected EU president. "An election for a big post held by one person - this people can understand," he said. "The problem with the European Parliament is that though clearly democratically elected, my experience is people don't feel close to their MEPs."
Blair's speech today came as David Cameron was embroiled in a damaging stand-off over who should take over as the next president of the European Commission, a different job to the president of the Council.
Cameron is said to have warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a summit last week that Britain could leave the EU if federalist Jean-Claude Juncker is handed the job.
The apparent upping of the stakes drew a sharp response from the former Luxembourg prime minister, who expressed confidence that he would secure the post this summer with support from Merkel and the European People's Party (EPP) bloc that still dominates the European parliament. "Europe must not allow itself to be blackmailed," Juncker told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
In an apparent swipe at Cameron's reported intervention, Blair said today: "There shouldn't be any predisposition towards one person or against any one person."Suggest a correction