No apologies, as it was just before this Blog started up. However, on the key issue on whether the European Union is "an association of sovereign nation states" or whether it is a "political union", it is worth revisiting a statement made by Tony Blair on "Europe" on 20 April 2004 (Hansard, Column 155):
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair) : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on the forthcoming negotiation over the new European treaty. In parallel, the Foreign Secretary is today publishing a White Paper on Europe.
Just by way of contrast, in a debate on 1 March 1995 (Hansard: Column 1066), Norman Lamont asked John Major:
On 1 May, the European Union will enlarge from 15 to 25 members, which will be the biggest increase in Europe's size and will reunify Europe after the travails of Communist dictatorship in eastern and central Europe. It is an historic event that this British Government, and the previous Government, have championed.
Whatever problems it poses — we see them in the anxiety over prospective immigration — let us be in no doubt that the prospect of EU membership, together with the courage of the Governments concerned, is the primary reason why those countries have been able to reform their economies and politics so radically and so beneficially, and such change is in the interests of all of Europe. I say unhesitatingly that enlargement is right for Europe and for Britain, and that this country should support it.
In addition, Bulgaria and Romania are set for membership in future years, taking the numbers to 27. Turkey is now taking extraordinary strides on democracy, human rights, economic change and the resolution of the conflict in Cyprus, which would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, under the impulsion of future EU membership. Within the space of a few years, Europe will be transformed, and it will be easily the strongest political union and greatest economic market in the world. Britain should be at the heart of it. That is its right and its destiny.
Does my right hon. Friend agree with Mr. Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the American Federal Reserve Board, and my right hon. Friend Lord Lawson of Blaby that monetary union inevitably means political union, or does he agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is possible to envisage monetary union without political union?Major answered:
No, I do not-- [Interruption.] With one important qualification: I believe that it is possible to move forward to monetary union without necessarily moving forward to political union, but the qualification depends on the nature and style of monetary union and I will deal with that in a moment…Major knew what the term "political union" meant, and its implications. Does Tony Blair?