GORDON Brown's leadership on the parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has ensured that he will be able to attend today's EU summit in a position of clarity and strength. If the Conservative peers had succeeded on Wednesday in delaying the ratification for several months, following the Irish vote last week, Britain would have been left in limbo on all the urgent matters needing decision in the EU, among them climate change and energy security, the global economy and immigration. Instead the Treaty received the Royal Assent yesterday morning. It is true, of course, that the prime minister's firm handling of the Lisbon Treaty process has deprived David Cameron of the opportunity to continue to accuse him of “dithering” - but not to stop him from claiming that he has “seen more spine and leadership from a bunch of jellyfish.” Mr Cameron's school-debate invective is increasingly unpleasant and counter-productive.

The tone and direction of today's summit meeting consideration of the implications of Ireland's “No” vote on the Lisbon Treaty will be set by Brian Cowen, the Irish prime minister who will be heard with respect and sympathy.

The great majority of those present will be in favour of allowing time for reflection and consultation rather than rushing to immediate judgement and decision. That would be the right course, especially in the knowledge that Nicolas Sarkozy will want to resolve this issue during the course of France's six months presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers which begins in ten days.