A former North East MEP is being tipped as Britain’s next European Commissioner.
Martin Callanan, who narrowly missed out on re-election in the MEP polls last week, has been named as a European Commission candidate.
Britain gets to fill one of the top jobs in Europe, and prime minister David Cameron is now said to be weighing up Mr Callanan alongside a bid from former health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Mr Callanan was for several years the leader of the Conservative group and has made a name for himself as a Eurosceptic. He played a major role in pulling the Tories out of the centre-right EPP group in Brussels, which created problems for him in Europe but won him many Tory friends at home.
Appointing the former MEP to the top job would mean Mr Cameron can take part in the EU debate without looking like he has continued on with ‘business as usual’.
Crucially for Mr Callanan, if the PM decided to make Mr Lansley the new commissioner it would mean the Tories find themselves fighting yet another by-election at a time when Nigel Farage’s UKIP is eager to fight constituency battles.
Last night Mr Callanan was being tight-lipped about his prospects, saying only: ““I am very flattered to be linked to such an important job for Britain in Europe. As last week proved, the EU urgently needs to reform and the commissioners will have a key role to play. Ultimately it is for the prime minister to decide who he wishes to appoint.”
The northern Conservative lost his seat after 16 years on Sunday when UKIP took the second of three North East seats. Speaking after the result, Mr Callanan urged the Conservatives “not to panic” saying that the party should remember voters had other priorities.
“Europe will not be the big issue for voters in 2015,” he told reporters. “We should stay the course and stick to our record on the economy.”
The former MEP has been backed by Berwick Conservative candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who has being campaigning for Mr Callanan to get the top job.
He also won backing from the influential Conservative Home website.
Paul Goodman, a former Tory MP, wrote on the site: “He knows how the parliament and the commission work. Downing Street and Conservative MPs know him. His eurosceptic views are long-standing, deeply felt and real. His centre of gravity on Britain’s membership is roughly the party’s centre of gravity.”
It is thought Britain will get to appoint the next energy commissioner, tasked with looking after issues such as shale gas and wind turbines for Europe.