By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels for the Telegraph

The prospect of a private aircraft raises the possibility that Tony Blair, the current frontrunner for the new post, which comes into effect next year, could get the "Blair Force One" he was denied as prime minister.

The terms of the new president were discussed at a secret "working dinner" held on Tuesday between José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, and EU ambassadors.

Current proposals suggest an EU presidential team of between 16 and 22 people. Such a number would be an important measure of the power of the position. In comparison, Mr Barroso presides over a cabinet of 13 people.

Other EU member states keen to give the post an aura of gravitas - and even statehood - have urged that the new president be granted an official "White House" style residence worthy of his status.

Because the new "President of the Council" will have a globetrotting role, some diplomats have argued that he, or she, should have the use of a personal aircraft, leading to inevitable comparisons with the American presidential jet, Air Force One.

Under French plans, expected to take shape when Paris takes the rotating EU presidency in July, the new figurehead would play a key role in forming a Euro-defence "vanguard group" of up to eight countries.

Hot air British criticism

But the Conservatives attacked the talks, held before the EU treaty has been fully debated and ratified at Westminster. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said: "This shows how deeply undemocratic this whole process is.

Open Europe, the Eurosceptic think-tank, said that the launch of informal negotiations about the role of the new president highlighted "contempt for the public".

"EU politicians claim that the Lisbon Treaty will make the EU more transparent and accessible to voters, but this latest example of secretive horse-trading shows that if it ever does come into force it will be business as usual in Brussels."

Conclusion: The EU imitates the USA.