Richard North, 21/06/2004  

It is no wonder that Mr Blair is having difficulty in understanding why people are getting upset about the concept of loss of sovereignty. In his own mind, he seems already to have ceded it, or failed completely to realise what it is.

The clue is given in the opening to his statement to the Commons at 3.30 this afternoon, when he proudly announced that the European Council had agreed to the new treaty.

Wrong Mr Blair. The European Council, as constituted, is an institution of the European Union, set up to give political guidance and direction to the Union. Its members, therefore, sit as members of the European Union.

In fact, it was the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) – an assembly of heads of states and governments of supposedly sovereign nations – meeting outside the framework of the European Union, that agreed the treaty.

The difference is more than semantic. The difference is between an institution deciding its own fate, and free sovereign nations deciding theirs. If Mr Blair cannot understand the difference, it is no wonder he sees nothing wrong with foisting this constitution on us.

We will be analysing in depth Mr Blair's statement, and Mr Howard's response, tomorrow, when we have the Hansard record.

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