More on the government statement about the Referendum Bill, published on Monday (read it here).
It has been suggested to me that perhaps the government is not being cynical, perhaps they genuinely believe that enlargement is not a constitutional issue.
The government statement uses the language of ceding power to Brussels. The fact that the member states themselves make up the European Union – it is not separate from them but is in fact composed of them – is neglected. The question of which other countries are in the EU is ignored. They are all the same, these foreigners.
If this is the way one thinks of EU membership, then enlargement indeed might have no constitutional implication.
But the language of ceding power to Brussels is misleading. Power does not go simply from London to Brussels, but from London to all the other national capitals – Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, and so on – and power comes back from them to London in return. Sovereignty is not ceded but pooled. The EU institutions are the means by which this sovereignty is pooled; power is not lost to them from the member states.
So the alternative to a cynical view is a deeply eurosceptic view. I am not sure which is worse.