‘President Blair’ awaits Irish ‘yes’ vote

Tony Blair will enjoy a salary the size of Barack Obama’s and a range of lavish perks if he becomes the first President of Europe.

The former prime minister can expect to live in the lap of luxury with 20 staff, a chauffeur and generous entertainment expenses for taking the powerful post.

But he would almost certainly be forced to ditch his lucrative outside interests – which might make him think twice about applying for the job.

He has raked in £12million since he left Downing Street two years ago.

Mr Blair is the hot favourite to be named the first President of Europe, a post created by the Lisbon Treaty. But last night the Tories warned European leaders against such a move.

William Hague said his party was prepared to lobby European capitals in an effort to block the appointment. ‘There could be no worse way to sell the EU to the people of Britain,’ the Shadow Foreign Secretary told The Times.

‘Most people would be extremely annoyed if Tony Blair is appointed president of the EU.’

Mr Blair could be installed within weeks if Ireland votes ‘Yes’ to signing up to the revamped EU constitution.

The result of yesterday’s referendum will be announced today.

The EU’s 500million voters will not have a say in who heads the 27-nation superstate. Instead, the decision will be made by the leaders of the member countries.

Even though the responsibilities and rewards for the new president have not been decided, it is expected the successful applicant will receive as much as European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

He pockets an annual salary of about £270,000, slightly less than Mr Obama. As well as the use of a chauffeur, a plush car and 20 members of staff, the President of Europe is also likely to get a £15,600 entertainment allowance.

As a former prime minister, Mr Blair already gets a taxpayer-funded pension of £63,468 a year plus an annual £84,000 allowance to run a private office.

If Mr Blair becomes president he will have a say over UK foreign and domestic policy and could prove a thorn in the side of David Cameron, should he win the next election.

However, critics said the former Labour leader’s role as a Middle East envoy was incompatible with his lucrative new job with an Arab state.

Mr Blair is an adviser to Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund which invests Abu Dhabi’s oil profits.

But this threatened his independence to broker peace between Israel and the Arab world, according to Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey.

Mr Blair refused to comment on speculation on whether he will run for the prestigious post.

Despite his role in the unpopular Iraq war and Britain’s failure to join the euro, he is known to have heavyweight political support across Europe including French leader Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Mr Blair may be deterred from accepting the job if it hits his other money-making activities.

Since leaving No 10 he has boosted the family finances with a money- spinning sideline as an adviser, getting £2million from investment bank J P Morgan and £500,000 from Zurich Financial Services.

He has also become one of the world’s best-paid public speakers, commanding £157,000 for a 90-minute address.

European Commission rules state that ‘Commissioners may not engage in any other professional activity, whether paid or unpaid’, suggesting Mr Blair would be forced to drop his sidelines.

Last night LibDem frontbencher Mr Davey said: ‘There are numerous reasons why Tony Blair’s candidacy for EU president must be vigorously opposed.

‘Blair split Europe over his decision to back Bush in the disastrous Iraq war.

‘There are still unanswered questions over his role in a British policy that failed to prevent complicity in torture.

‘No Government can in good conscience support Tony Blair as a potential EU president while it remains unclear what his role was in this issue.’

Mats Persson, research director of think-tank Open Europe, said: ‘If he takes up the position, Tony Blair must make sure that the many political and commercial interests that he’s currently entwined in are not allowed to shape his agenda as EU president.

‘He must stay well clear of all types of conflicts of interest.’

Former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett played down his chances. She said: ‘I’m sure he would be a strong candidate, [but] I somewhat doubt whether he would actually get the post.’
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