A formal proposal to rename the European Union the United States of Europe is clear evidence that a superstate is on the way, Eurosceptics warned last night.
They said that along with plans for EU citizenship and the running of common foreign, security and defence policies 'on a federal basis', it would give the EU 'all the attributes of a state'.
The name change is part of a 'preliminary draft constitutional treaty' published by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, chairman of a year-long Convention on Europe's future.
The aim is to give the EU a written constitution - a move which sceptics claim is a key part of the development of a single state.
The 18-page draft also suggests giving all residents dual citizenship and sets out the rights of each EU citizen, such as movement, residence and the right to vote and stand in European Parliament and local elections.
Other major proposals are:
The creation of the post of an elected president of the Council. The powers of the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council of member states would also be defined;
A Congress of the Peoples of Europe that would include members of the European Parliament and national legislatures;
EU institutions should be as open as possible, with legislative debates by the Parliament and Council open to the public;
The constitution would also establish the procedure for a country to leave the bloc and the consequences this would have.
The draft blueprint is only a summary of the convention debate so far and final proposals are not due before next summer.
But it provides a wealth of ammunition for Eurosceptics who fear Britain is being sucked into a federal superstate.
A government source admitted it was a 'major negative' that the list of the alternative names for the EU included United States of Europe and United Europe.
There was 'not a cat in hell's chance' of the EU being called a United States of Europe, he said, and United Europe - M Giscard d'Estaing's personal favourite - also risked losing the notion of the nation state.
Peter Hain, the newly appointed Welsh Secretary, is representing the Government at the convention. He will insist the EU does not change its name.
The draft describes the EU as 'a Union of European states which, while retaining their national identities, closely coordinate their policies at the European level, and administer certain common competencies on a federal basis'.
Government officials say the 'f ' word is being used in its proper context, and holds no danger for the UK's sovereignty - but its appearance in an EU ' constitution' is bound to attract hostility.
The other major bugbear for Britain is M Giscard d'Estaing's call for dual citizenship, which would give all EU nationals both national and European citizenship, with the freedom to use either.
The idea of placing EU citizenship above national citizenship is unacceptable to the Government.
The Tory member of the Convention, former minister David Heathcoat-Amory, condemned M Giscard d'Estaing's draft as 'a blueprint for integration'.
He warned: 'The draft constitution published today would endow the European Union with all the attributes of a state.
'The EU will have a single legal personality and will operate on "a federal basis". People will have "dual citizenship", which itself elevates the EU to statehood.
'The British Government must make clear its total opposition to this federal advance.'
But yesterday in the Commons the Prime Minister welcomed the 18-page document, saying it made clear that the EU 'should cooperate as a Union of the European states, not a federal superstate'.
Mr Blair told MPs: 'We are wellplaced in this vital debate.'