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Legitimacy gap

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 pass

By Chris Patten   July 2001

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…

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