The Irish referendum vote against enlargement, the Danish rejection of the euro and Bitish euroscepticism all suggest that the EU fails the test of legitimacy. It can and should passby Chris Patten / July 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
Published in July 2001 issue of Prospect Magazine
Sovereignty is a notoriously slippery concept. In feudal times, the position was clear enough. Sovereignty rested with God. Later, God was good enough to delegate. Sovereignty resided with the king. But absolute monarchy never recovered from the blow that struck off Charles I’s head. Parliament became sovereign. And sovereignty was no longer an expression of the will of God, but the will of the people.
But what does it mean to say that parliament “is sovereign”? The concept of sovereignty is a difficult one because there is often confusion between sovereignty de jure-the supreme legal authority; and sovereignty de facto-the ability to induce people to take a certain course of action. The distinction between the two is illustrated by the members of the French Convention who on 2nd June 1793, in the exercise of their sovereign authority, ordered the arrest of the leaders of the Girondin party but only after their president had led them to the exit to escape the mob.