Desperate attempts to forge a deal on the future of Europe were overshadowed last night by an astonishing demand for the voting system to reflect Polish population losses caused by the Nazi invasion in 1939.
Polish leaders said the proposed EU voting formula, based on population, disadvantaged their country because it had still to recover from the millions lost during World War II.
The latest intervention from Poland, regarded with Britain as the main obstacle to a deal tonight in Brussels, was regarded as a move to add to pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is anxious to crown her country’s presidency of the EU with an agreement she can sell at home.
She was also under pressure, although less hostile, from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, telling her in a joint telephone call that there could be no retreat from their demands that Britain receive a water-tight legal exemption from the Charter on Fundamental Rights, and a retention of the veto on law and order and social security.
Blair told The Times that he would “walk away” unless his requests were met, and his last Cabinet meeting firmly backed that stance.
Merkel will hold separate meetings this morning with the “awkward squad” leaders of Britain, Poland and the Netherlands, which is seeking a boost in the powers of national parliaments against Brussels.
Blair arrived predicting a “tough negotiation”. There would have to be “really significant change” in Britain’s “red line” areas of foreign policy, the judicial system, tax and social security, and the charter.