Czech court rules Lisbon Treaty can be signed

The Mole: Cameron must come up with an alternative to his ‘cast iron’ referendum promise

Column LAST UPDATED AT 09:43 ON Tue 3 Nov 2009

Well, that's it. The Czech constitutional court has ruled - as everyone said it would - that the Lisbon Treaty is in line with the country's constitution, and President Vaclav Klaus now has no option but to ratify it.

Which means the treaty can be signed into European law at a meeting in Brussels next week, and a EU president and foreign secretary appointed as soon as the union's prime ministers can agree on which of various Euro-suits to pick. Likeliest contenders are Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former Finnish PM Paavo Lipponen and Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker.

Tony Blair still isn't totally out of the picture, but it is very unlikely he will be chosen given the unease in Angela Merkel's camp in particular, and the general feeling that his support of the Iraq war can never be forgiven. Gordon Brown and Lord Mandelson are still pushing for Blair, but with little chance of success.

Britain's best hope of a home-grown contender for a senior role remains David Miliband for EU foreign secretary, if he can bring himself to forget about domestic politics for the next four or five years. Many of his supporters, in the media and in Westminster, think that would be a very smart move.

As for David Cameron, he has promised to make a statement tomorrow on Conservative policy. He famously pledged in 2007 to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - it was, he said, a "cast-iron guarantee" - but now that Klaus's rearguard action has collapsed, that's impossible to fulfil.

No one is sure what he can say to appease the Eurosceptics - not to mention the out-and-out Europhobes - in his party. Any talk of a "retrospective referendum" - to enable the British people to say in effect "We wish we had not signed" - would cause so much damage to relations with Europe that it is surely unthinkable.

Expect instead a Tory promise to "repatriate" certain powers from Brussels to Westminster, and a 110 per cent commitment to hold a referendum on any future Euro-treaties. ·