New foreign policy chief at EU was fourth in line for job
Europe's new foreign policy chief was the fourth-choice British candidate for the job, officials disclosed yesterday.
Catherine Ashton, (right) a Labour peer, was appointed EU high representative for foreign affairs on Thursday despite having never held elected office and her lack of foreign policy experience.
British and European officials disclosed that three other UK candidates were considered before her. David Miliband, the foreign secretary; Peter Mandelson, the business secretary; and Geoff Hoon, the former defence secretary, were all discussed before Ms Ashton emerged in a last-minute compromise between Gordon Brown and European leaders.
Mr Brown's decision to accept the post for Britain will mean missing out on one of the key economic posts inside the European Commission. The country's Conservative Party suggested this would allow France to determine the selection and potentially impose new regulations on the City of London.
Despite publicly backing former prime minister Tony Blair for the post of EU President, Mr Brown is understood to have prepared a secret "Plan B" negotiating position in Europe.
He privately accepted several weeks ago that Mr Blair had little hope of winning because of a proposed EU deal where centre-right parties picked the president and left-wing parties got to fill the foreign policy job. (© Daily Telegraph, London)