Why indeed. Why would any independent sovereign nation state want to give up even a fraction of their sovereignty to an international organisation?
Put simply because pre-1939, when no formal structure existed for discussing matters of common interest, the individual nation states of Europe were used to going to war to assert their interests, to resolve their differences and to settle their disputes. What interaction there was between the nation states was based on loose alliances and casual one-night stands. As is often the case with one night stands they are not designed to last.
Nazism was the last great attempt in Europe to rule through autocracy. Following Hitler’s defeat there was unanimous consent in Europe for the creation of a structure that would allow for meaningful and predictable co-operation between the nation states. For this to become effective a club would have to be created with its own rules and its own decision-making process. Without it Europe would be back to the politics of the alley-cat.
In the immediate aftermath of the second world war most European politicians were realistic enough to know that a federal Europe with one government and a President was an unrealistic, impractical and an undesirable “club”.
So, rather than aim high they aimed low. Very low in fact: to the subterranean.
In 1951 six countries signed up to the European Coal and Steel Community, which sought to regulate the important post-war trade in coal and steel. Britain declined. They wore the victors laurel-leaves and were not yet ready to give up a part of their national sovereignty – not even for coal and steel.
The European Coal and Steel Community worked brilliantly. Although it regulated all but the trade of two products it was the proto-type that would set the precedent to come.
With its roots in the ground is it any wonder that the present day European Union has become such a fixed body?