The real origin of the European Union ‘supranationalist’ state – and why it still matters

4th January 2021

There is a view held by many in the United Kingdom that the European Union – and its predecessors – was not always a ‘supranational’ organisation.

That it was not always an entity which routinely transcended national boundaries.

The view is that it was once a mere innocent trading association and an international organisation – and that it was only after the United Kingdom joined in 1973 that it corrupted into a supranational organisation, which took rule-making and decision-making out of the hands of member states.


Some will know this is not true and will point, say, to the Treaty of Rome of 1957, which established the European Economic Community, with its express determination that the treaty would lay the “foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

Others will point to the 1960s caselaw of the European Court of Justice, such as the Costa v ENEL judgment of 1964 that made it as plain as a pikestaff (the lawyers’ equivalent of ‘absolutely clear’) that the domestic law of a member state was subordinate to the provisions of both the Treaty of Rome and the legal instruments made thereunder.

The United Kingdom thereby knew exactly what it was joining in 1973, and only a fool or knave could (and did) pretend otherwise.


Yet the supranational essence of what the United Kingdom joined in 1973 was older than the Costa case of 1964, and was even older than the Treaty of Rome of 1957.

Here it is important that the United Kingdom did not just join the European Economic Community in 1973 but also another community, the deceptively unglamorous-sounding, and older, European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) of 1952.

For some, the historical fact that the United Kingdom joined more than one community in 1973 is nothing more than an answer to a quiz question, or the reason why the European Communities Act 1973 employs the plural form of community.

But it was a lot more significant than that.


To understand why, we have to go back to the years after the second world war and the problem of what should be done about Germany – in particular, the industrial areas of Rhineland and Saarland.

In 1944 the plan was to eliminate much of this industrial capacity; and in 1946 another plan was to give France control.

But by the late 1940s neither of these strident approaches seemed sustainable, especially in view of the need to not de-stabilise (what was then) West Germany, and so another approach was needed.

In 1950, a suggestion was made that there be a ‘high authority’ be put in place, overseeing French and German coal and steel production.

And by 1951 – with the Treaty of Paris – this idea had developed into an array of supervisory institutions – not only a high authority, but also an assembly, a council of ministers and – significantly – a dedicated court, with these further institutions balancing the executive power of the high authority.

The high authority furthermore had the power to issue decisions and recommendations binding the signatories – France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries (who were already heading towards economic unity).


So we have in 1952 the establishment of the ECSC – with a supranational group of institutions in place and with the power to make law and adjudicate disputes, ensuring adherence to shared treaty obligations.

And the key element of this arrangement was not that it was aspirational – notwithstanding the heady language of integration that accompanied it – but that it was a solidly, deeply practical solution to a problem – of what should be done in respect of the post-war industrial relationship of France and Germany.

Just as, say the Good Friday Agreement used an imaginative cross-border approach to a thorny cross-border problem, so did the Treaty of Paris.

What the Spaak Report of 1956 and the Treaty of Rome of 1957 then did was to employ this supranational approach (with shared institutions and shared law-making) on wider economic questions, as it was seen as an approach that would work.

So when the United Kingdom joined the communities in 1973, the fact that it was joining a practical supranational enterprise had been – well – as plain as a pikestaff for over twenty years.


What makes this ‘pre-history’ significant is that it is often the view of critics of the European Union that its supranational nature is somehow airy-fairy – that it is impractical and unrealistic.

And this is seen as a contrast to rugged Anglo-Saxon empiricism and practical common sense.

The reality is that the European Union, as with its predecessor organisations the European Economic Community and ECSC, regards its supranational nature as eminently practical, as was as embodying certain ideals of European unity.

That it works.

Supranationalism is thereby an approach which has worked since 1952 – and not just somehow inflicted by surprise on the united Kingdom after 1973.

It is not as if the debate is between an unrealistic pro-European Union camp and a realistic band of critics.

The problem that the United Kingdom had for a long time when a member of the European Union is that it rarely wanted to work within a supranational organisation.

Supranationalism was, it seemed, for other people.

The United Kingdom regarded supranationalism as a bug of the European Union, and not as a feature.

So the United Kingdom sought – and obtained – opt-out after opt-out, until 2015-16 when it sought a ‘re-negotiation’ only to find the European Union could and would shift no further.


The supranationalism of the European Union is seventy years old.

The United Kingdom in its modern form as a collection of four nation states has only existed since 1922 – and so is a mere thirty years older than the first of the European communities. 

As this blog has previously averred, political unions come and go – and no political union can be seen as eternal.

And given that the supranationalism of the European Union is regarded as practical as well as an ideal, there is no inherent reason why the European Union will not last longer than the United Kingdom as a union of nation states.


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80 thoughts on “The real origin of the European Union ‘supranationalist’ state – and why it still matters”

    1. What do you mean by ‘similar’ – a joint high authority, or the array of institutions and a supranational law-making power?

      1. I believe that Jean Monet – who was the driving force behind most of the creation of the various European Communities – advocated this approach in the 1920s.

          1. I suspected the original comment might have been a reference to the destruction of the coalfields in northern France during the First World War, plus the Treaty of Versailles allocating of Lorraine with its iron ore and steel plants to France, so a consequent need for France to import coal from Germany in the immediate post-war period (see for example, the Spa Conference of 1920), but the need for Germany to keep its coal for its own purposes, and the cessation of German exports in the hyperinflationary crisis, and the occupation of the Ruhr.

            If there is something specific – whether or not it involves Jean Monnet – I’d like to see some references please.

            For example, I believe at one early stage in the 1920s, Monnet supported a separate “Rhineland Republic” – someone more knowledgeable will have to explain whether that was Adenauer’s short-lived Rheinische Republik or something else.

            There were customs unions, of course – the German Zollverein from 1834 pre-dating the unification of Germany in 1871, or the Benelux union from 1944 – but the ECSC and EEC had much wider aspirations than “just” customs duties on traded goods.

            Meanwhile, the UK was still focused on its “Empire”. Perhaps things might have been different if the Treaties of Rome had been signed a few years later, in 1960 say, and not in the immediate aftermath of the Suez crisis in late 1956.

          2. The link contains an observation that Schuman saw the Schuman plan creating the ESCS as the continuation of the Monnet plan. It should be noted that the 1946 Monnet plan always saw there being an international authority for the Saarland. A similar arrangement was in place in the 1920s.

            From the French perspective, the ECSC and later the EEC had the purpose of strengthening France compared to Germany – hence for instance de Gaulle devaluing the franc on the eve of the Rome Treaty creating the EEC to make French industry more competitive.

        1. I think Aristide Briand was the driving force in the 1920s but the concept was less concrete. It was also meant to involve Britain. In Germany, SPD supported it.

  1. I agree with this and it is not often aired in the UK. But it is a little disingenuous to say that the UK union only predates the EU by 30 years. The seccession of Ireland altered the structure obviously but the basic elements of the union had been there for many many years.

  2. If you were born in a village in Northern France in 1865 and lived until at least 1940 then you would have seen in your lifetime your village invaded by the armies of the King of Prussia in 1870; those of the Kaiser of Germany in 1914 and the Führer’s Wehrmacht in 1940.

    You may even have seen your village rebuilt at least twice in that time.

    Giving up a little bit of sovereignty seems a price well worth paying for peace in that context.

    The ECSC and its successors have been in existence for 68 years now.

    May be if the UK and not just the Channel Islands had been invaded in World War Two then we would appreciate the practical value of the project to both those whose countries were invaded and those whose countries were the aggressors.

    1. And your French person’s grand-dad would have seen the Russians and Prussians in 1814 and them plus the Brits in 1815.

      Orwell wrote somewhere that in the 1930s estate agents in Northern France advertised houses as being “remote from invasion routes”.

    2. Alsace had both Germans and French people living in it. If you visit villages in the Vosges you will see war memorials with names of those who fell fighting for France and those who fell fighting for Germany in successive wars

      One of the great achievements of the European Union is to ensure that there will be no additions to these memorials.

    3. As partly from Alsatian origin, as my name shows, I can only strongly support John Turner’s view. Our familial history is full of the consequences of Franco-German/Prussian wars. Relatives moving to France after 1871 not to become Germans, great-uncle serving his military conscription in the Imperial army and at the eve of Ww1 crossing the border to fight with France, destroyed family house, burned town registrars etc… My generation (born 1940) is among the one who wished to see the end of such absurd horrors. To us swatching a piece of France “sovereignty” against more than peace, the construction of a more unified Europe is a welcomed blessing.

  3. So in the light of the failure of the Treaty of Versailles, the similar approach mooted in the 40s was sensibly abandoned and a new one tried.
    It appears that this new approach has at the least avoided the problems created by the Treaty of Versailles. I guess we have the looming Red Army to thank for that, so perhaps some indirect credit to the USSR!

    1. We also have Churchill to thank.

      Churchill had a robust view on how criminals against humanity should be treated. In one minute, describing the holocaust as the greatest crime in European history, he proposed that all those suspected of involvement in the camps and deportations should be arrested, an investigation made by an officer of the rank of Major or above, and those found to have been involved in any way, however minor, should be summarily executed.

      He took a similarly robust view over the destruction of Warsaw – with some effect. When the military governor heard that the BBC had reported Churchill’s vow that those who failed to respect the status of the resistance as soldiers would pay for their crimes Bach-Zelewski decided that he had better take talks over surrender seriously.

      However Churchill never proposed revenge on the German people as a whole. He always said the guilty ones were the gangsters (his description) who had seized a great European nation. There is a minute in which Churchill enquired about acquiring an electric chair as the appropriate mechanism for executing any Nazi leaders who were captured alive.

      Churchill helped create a climate in which Germany could be come the democratic country we know today.

  4. David Egerton’s analysis might suggest that “the United Kingdom” in contradistinction to “the British Empire” is even younger than 1922.

  5. Fascinating artcile, but I do not believe you are comparing like with like when you say the UK in its modern form has only existed for 30 years longer than the first European community (what you describe as the pre-history of the EU).

    1922 was when Ireland was partitioned. The UK’s governance structures were not created in 1922, let alone their earliest pre-history.

    The comparison with EU in its “modern form” would be when Croatia joined in 2013 – or even more recently when UK left 11 months ago.

    1. In 1922, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland ceased to exist. Two states that had never before existed as distinct entities were artificially created (by which I mean neither the IFS nor Northern Ireland had previously existed in those forms), each with brand new institutional arrangements. I fear in your rush to make a clever comment you underestimate the sheer significance of what actually happened in 1922. The United Kingdom was re-created.

      1. I clearly don’t know all of the details of what happened in 1922. I had thought GB&NI was the direct successor of GB&I after Ireland split off, but even if GB&NI was a new state, didn’t it inherit all the laws and institutions of the previous GB&I? For instance, I don’t believe anyone dates the UK Parliament to 1922.

        1. I am sure it look like that from a Westminster perspective!

          But the United Kingdom as a political union is more than a mere footnote to the Westminster parliament. The union of national states was fundamentally re-worked in 1922 – as another commenter has noted – entirely new institutions were introduced/imposed, and a new home nation was, in effect, invented. Northern Ireland (not the same as Ulster, of course) was created and then made co-(supposedly) equal in the union.

          And one hundred years later, these 1922 arrangements are still contested – see the Good Friday Agreement.

          So yes, the modern form of the United Kingdom dates back only to 1922.

          It depends whether you look at things through a Westminster telescope. I try not to do so.

      2. Indeed. N Ireland had a “devolved” Home Rule parliament (Stormont) and fewer MPs at Westminster as a consequence.

        The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland began in 1801, after the passing of the Acts of Union in 1800.

        While the UK of GB & I ceased to exist as such when the Irish Free State was created, that name continued until 1927. The effective formal name of the new polity as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was established by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927. Strictly, that covered only the monarch’s titles and the name of the parliament.

      3. Andy Lee is far from alone in underestimating the significance of what happened in 1922. In one respect this is understandable -just as with every previous change in the structure of states in the British Isles the only change in the Westminster Parliament was in its composition – on this occasion and for the first time members left both Houses (the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800 had seen members added).

        1. The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the Irish Church Act 1869 meant, inter alia, that the church could no longer send representative Lords Spiritual to the House of Lords.

          While Scottish representative peers were elected for one parliament, Irish representative peers were elected for life. They could continue to sit until in the Lords after partition; the last representative peer didn’t die until 1961.

  6. “As this blog has previously averred, political unions come and do – and no political union can be seen as eternal”

    Surely “come and go”?

    Or am I being slow on the uptake?

  7. What, please, was the precise title of the court with supra-national jurisdiction that was created in the early 1950s? I ask because I’ve an uneasy feeling that if the European Court of Justice had been called the European Trade Disputes Tribunal, or some such really boring name omitting the emotive word “court”, it would have evaded the ire of the Brexiteers who saw it as intrusively supranational.

    This is not to dispute your central point, that the UK could have, should have, known what it was signing up for.

    1. The third of the three European Communities is the European Atomic Energy Community (Euroatom), created alongside the EEC by a second Treaty of Rome on 27 March 1957.

      The 1951 Treaty of Paris that established the European Coal and Steel Community included provision for its “Court of Justice” (see Article 7 and Chapter IV of the ECSC Treaty, and then for example Article 44 which says that “The judgments of the Court shall be executory on the territory of the member States …” but you probably need later caselaw to demonstrate how supranational that is). The two Treaties of Rome enlarged the Court of Justice of the ECSC into a single Court of Justice for those three European Communities: our friend the ECJ (more recently, CJEU).

  8. Does the “supranational” nature of the EU apply to all aspects of member states’ government? Education, housing, defence, policing, health, welfare, transportation, taxation?

    1. not necessarily;
      short-medium-long term perspectives needed here;
      if you take the german and us model, affairs are managed differently & independently in a lot of the cases you mentioned above

  9. Mr. Allen, I think you would find “The Deluge” by Adam Tooze an interesting read. It looks at the end of WWI and how it was handled, setting up much of the world order we live with today.
    The issue of Franco-German industrial relations was high on the agenda and Jean Monnet was one of those who had a good go at trying to find a solution. He did better second time around! I know one can pull on the thread of history finding causes upon causes for ever but the genesis of the EU really was, I think, in Versailles and the work to find a survivable peace – as Woodrow Wilson liked to say ” a peace without victors.”

  10. An interesting consequence of the creation of the ECSC was that because West Germany got back some control of some land and coal and steel production they genuinely increased their sovereignty by joining a supranational project.

  11. Fascinating – thanks!

    And it raises (in my mind) the question of the extent to which the structures established by the TCA are similar to the high authority established by the ECSC. A future blog subject?

    1. As the sage Townsend (nearly) sang “meet the new supranational authority, same as the old supranational authority”

  12. We were taught such background and contetx at secondary school, in citizenship and history. That was in Germany, in the 1970s. Learning about the background of the EU and its institutions is still part of the curriculum there. Why was it never taught in English schools? I am familiar with the English school curriculum (for state schools), and there is nothing relevant. Such deep ignorance has exposed minds to lies and manipulation. Just goes to show that a decent, diverse education can immunise against lies and is part of the bedrock of a functioning democracy.

    1. Gudrun, I am afraid much basic teaching of history in schools in England (I don’t dare say the UK, as I am sure there are different considerations for good reason in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where a different and perhaps more rounded view might be taken of say Bannockburn and Flodden and Culloden, and Edward I, and Cromwell and William of Orange) is based on the myth-making typified by “Our Island Story”, from the Romans and Boudicca and Hadrian’s Wall, through the Angles and Saxons and Vikings, William the Conqueror, King John and Magna Carta, Hundred Years War with Agincourt and Crecy, Wars of the Roses and Lancaster and York, Tudors and Stuarts and Reformation, Cromwell, Glorious Revolution, supremacy of Parliament, and then the Georgians and Napoleon and Wellington and Nelson, and Victorians and Industrial Revolution and the Empire. (Certainly, our Conservative leaders were fed this stuff at Eton a few decades ago: I hope the next generation have a more varied diet.) Michael Gove’s history syllabus adds Churchill and the Spitfire. Two World Wars and One World Cup.

      There is a deep ignorance – even on matters closely entwined with the central myths of empire and war, such as the slave trade, or the Russian contribution in the Second World War.

      1. I went to a grammar school in N Ireland in the early 1960s. The history curriculum was English history between 1485 and 1815. What happened in Ireland was only incidental to what happened in England.

        1. Remind me, Robert: who was responsible for the syllabus in schools in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s?

          Was there really no mention of, for example, the Siege of Derry, or the Battle of the Boyne?

          1. It would have been the old Stormont administration that set the curriculum; that is, it was the work of “staunch unionists”.

            While the school I went to was independent and “grant maintained”, this curriculum would have been followed in the “controlled” state schools which were overwhelmingly protestant.

            There was then a second, parallel school system; schools at primary and secondary level were “maintained” and these were run by the Catholic church. They will have followed a different, Ireland based curriculum.

        2. Likewise when I studied English Literature in the 1970s, all Irish Literature was classified as English.

  13. The nation state is itself a pretty modern development. Until 1918, there was nothing remarkable about polities covering lots of different nations – Austria/Hungary for instance. And different countries split up their constituent parts in different ways – the USA comprises 50 largely sovereign states with different laws and took a civil war to determine what was done at the combined rather than state level. The UK has different legal systems in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England &Wales.

    It always astounds me that Brexit is founded on a belief that all sovereignty should be hoarded at one place, Westminster. Such a belief doesn’t even reflect the realities of here, let alone the reality of a wider Europe.

  14. There is a (very long but quite enjoyable) article in the December 2020 issue of the LRB that discusses how EU architecture evolved into what it is. It mentions for example that: “[in 1963], the European Court of Justice had ruled that national legislation must comply with Community regulations, and where the two conflicted, courts in the country concerned must enforce the latter. Nothing in the Treaty of Rome authorised this. The court invoked the ‘spirit’ of the treaty, rather than its letter.”

    Also Tony Judt in his ‘Postwar’ history of Europe mentions that if the wide reach of the ECJ jurisdiction was put to referendums in the then current EU member states, none would likely have approved it.

  15. The problem I have with this analysis is that it ignores some of the deeper underlying tensions that beset the EU and consequently the UK’s relationships with it. Nor does it take account of how people and organisations change over time. I realise it largely offers a legal perspective but it does not take account of the economic and organisational drivers.
    Those tensions have best been described by Dani Rodrick in his ideas about the trilemma faced by the world economy. He believes that there is a fundamental tension between deep economic integration (globalism), national sovereignty and democracy. The trilemma is that a country has to choose which of the two it desires because it cannot have all three.
    The Thatcher Government thought that economically the UK could to use her successor’s term” prosper mightily” if it could persuade the EU to become a genuine common market for goods and services. Her project succeeded but what she and the UK only realised after the event was the deeper you integrate economically, the more national sovereignty is constricted by the agreements you have to sign up to.
    The subsequent decision of the EU to adopt a common currency sharpened the trilemma for the UK. Whether you believe ( as I did ) the UK should have remained within the EU and managed the tensions or whether the UK made the right decision to leave, the trilemma has not gone away.

    1. The post does not ‘ignore’ such things, and I do wish words like ‘ignore’ were not used in comments like this.

      Any post – indeed any piece of commentary – is selective.

      There are thousands of things not mentioned which could have been mentioned. It does not mean they were ‘ignored’.

  16. “The United Kingdom thereby knew exactly what it was joining in 1973, and only a fool or knave could (and did) pretend otherwise”

    Many UK politicians were aware of this but the greater public either didn’t listen, care or were happy to remain ignorant, the latter being the most prevalent which in turn provided an audience for Johnson’s Telegraph nonsense & Eurosceptics like Redwood et al, and a band of useful idiots to follow the band.

    Given the basket case the UK had become in 1973, those same politicians were happy to allow the situation to continue into 1975 and beyond, and here we are; an army of customs assistants, libraries of forms and warehouses of red tape.

    What have we learned? Nothing; the same Eurosceptic swivel-eyed loons continue to berate the EU for their own failures, parliamentary democracy has hit the rocks and the UK govt has pushed the country out to sea without a compass or a map.

    First step is to get a proportional representation electoral system in place…

  17. Thank you for this concise summary, of background facts which I knew but had never put into context.
    I often remind people, on other threads, who think that the United Kingdom has had fixed borders for a few centuries, that the UK I was born into was not the same entity that my parents were born into.

    Gudrun, I for one was taught these facts in school, although how widespread this was, I do not know. Note that I left school in 1969, but perhaps the fact that this knowledge was being taught helped to confirm the Yes vote of 1975?

    The problem for me now, already having seen my children affected by leaving the EU, is what practically do we do to mitigate the damage?

  18. Another excellent article, and so refreshing to read the truth about the origins of the European Coal & Steel Community and the European Union. I studied the history, reasoning & development of the EU as part of my first degree, and totally concur with your piece.
    I fought in vain during the pre and post referendum period to shed light on the truth behind the formation of the ECSC & EU, and was of course shot down in flames on various social media platforms and by both friends and family in my attempts to do so. Against the backdrop of two devastating world wars, the formation of such a union of sovereign nation states ensured that by inextricably interlinking the economic interests of member states, such wars would not occur again.
    For reasons which still escape me, political parties of all colours have fought against the very body of which the UK was a member state itself. The constant portrayal of the ‘EU’ as a separate entity (and, in effect enemy) against which our sovereign nation must constantly fight it’s corner, rather than as part of the group in which we had equal membership, directly resulted in the rise of nationalism and populism within the UK. This UK exceptionalism approach to the EU in turn set the political backdrop and agenda for the 2016 referendum itself, and by natural consequence, the subsequent various outcomes.
    The UK had arguably the ‘best deal’ of all member states. It is a sorry state of affairs to see how spectacularly we as a nation have been led up the garden path thanks to vested interests, political ignorance, FPTP archaic (and arguably undemocratic) voting system, and constant misrepresentation by the Forth Estate mainstream media, all of which have led in turn to an electorate who either aren’t aware, or don’t care, that they are being lied to by those in whom they place their blind trust.
    We are truly living in Orwellian times.
    I am heartbroken to see the futures of my children and grandchildren impoverished as a result of the selfishness of the very generations who profited so richly from the benefits of EU membership during their lifetimes. You couldn’t make it up.

    1. Top comment, Louise. I am with you 100%.

      The people of the UK are poorer for leaving the EU, and the peoples of the EU are poorer without us, and not just in monetary terms. It is a lose-lose scenario, so the last four years was all about limiting the damage on either side. I am sure the EU negotiators have done a better job at that than ours.

      The EU was not only or even primarily about economic matters. It was about cooperation and peace in Europe.

      The UK has hardly any hard power left, and has just given up a lever to amplify its soft power on the world stage.

  19. Thank you – a useful reminder of how we got into this mess.

    Back in the early 90s I had the (genuine) pleasure of going to various talks in Parliament and meeting a few MPs (David Willetts and Tessa Jowell in particular stick in my memory as two young, cheerful MPs from opposing parties who seemed to be good parliamentary colleagues).

    Much of the talk was about Maastricht (post 92 election win for Major). I remember mentioning the ‘ever closer union’ line as being evident we should not be surprised at increased integration only to be told by various MPs (of pro-EU and euro-sceptic persuasion) that “of course it never really meant that – until now”. When I suggested UK politicians were not being honest with the public about the European project, I got a frosty response!

    It struck me then – and has done ever since – that the biggest mistake the EU made was not in letting us join but in letting us join with the notion of opt-outs and then allowing those opt-outs to grow.

    There should have been some transparent process whereby the UK was publicly seen to acknowledge the true nature (history) of the organisation and that it was fully committed to its development with no opt-outs, just like the original founding nations.

    When some UK commentators now say the EU should reflect on “how it lost the UK” – I’d suggest it reflects on this: that pandering to English exceptionalism never works (much like pandering to the europhobic wing of the Tory party). The UK will always want more special treatment to assuage its nagging sense of fading global relevance.

    PS: Quick note to say that Brexit is over – it is done – and it has already proved to be a failure on its own terms. The referendum ‘mandate’ to leave has expired – there is no ‘will of the people’ for any particular post-Brexit future. All we have left are the consequences of bad choices and a castrated parliament. Thankfully we got a deal – so the bounds of our leaving have now been set. In future, we can hope for a gradual re-integration into certain elements (much like the EEA/EFTA arrangements perhaps) but perhaps following a more honest debate.

  20. Arguably, the UK has only existed as four nations in its present form since April 1974. The Local Government Act 1972, which came into effect in April 1974, confirmed the county of Monmouthshire as part of Wales.
    The Laws in Wales Act 1542 enumerated the counties of Wales and omitted Monmouthshire, implying that the county was no longer to be treated as part of Wales. However, for all purposes Wales had become part of the Kingdom of England, and the difference had little practical effect. For several centuries, acts of the Parliament of England (in which Wales was represented) often referred to “Wales and Monmouthshire”. (from Wikipedia)

    1. The worst sin of the 1972 Act was the ‘West Midlands’

      I was born in Birmingham, Worcestershire, thank you very much

      1. Birmingham was in Warwickshire! Though some southern and (curiously) eastern suburbs were carved out of Worcestershire, e.g. Sheldon, Yardley, Kings Norton…

          1. Selly Oak was in Worcestershire – until 1911. In 1898 it formed part of the King’s Norton and Northfield Urban Council (in Worcestershire). But in 1911 it was added to the (by then) City of Birmingham (in Warwickshire) as part of the Greater Birmingham Scheme. You were probably too young at the time to notice ;-).

            Still, you can say you were born in the forest of Arden.

  21. Love the exchange between Gudrun and Andrew on the poverty nay deceit of the history and civics in the English curriculum. I fear not a matter Gavin Williamson will be tackling.

  22. On a more general point, it has become commonplace only in recent months and years to talk of the four nations of the United Kingdom. England, Wales and Scotland make three. England and Wales have traditionally and legally been paired but are becoming more separate. What of the fourth? How far can Northern Ireland be regarded as a nation rather than a form of government devised in 1922 to address the consequence of dividing Ireland. And, more fundamentally, where does British nationhood fit into this complex combination?

  23. This highlights how World War 2 plays into different narratives about the EU.

    For continental Europeans, the EU project can include a ‘peace over war’ theme.

    Whereas for Britain, an island nation which has not recently been invaded, that is absent. Instead, the British have the wave-ruling, ‘buccaneering’, war-winning narrative. The EU project does not really contribute to that story.

  24. This is really good. But I think that there is an important omission that has crucial resonance today. That is that the ECSC emerged out of the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC). So if you couldn’t bind Germany into a Western European defence pact, at least they could control her steel production that was the essential base of the defence industry and rearmament against the Russian threat. So the ECSC emerged as a useful second best. The centrality of Germany to Europe’s defence – and how to influence it – remains key today as we consider NATO spending, strategic autonomy, Nord Stream, and China investment pact.

    My other point is a question. Given all this, why your objection to Maastricht ? All it effectively does – with UK opt outs- is formalise the CFSP that had already existed since 1970 as European Political Cooperation and adds the justice pillar. Why was this a step too far for you?

  25. Thanks for a very useful succinct historical summary of the story. I remember going to Paris in 1957 on school exchange to the home of a boy whose father worked for the Coal and Steel Community in Luxembourg.

  26. The 1950 proposal to which you refer, which led eventually to the European Coal and Steel Community, was the Schumann Declaration. Schumann was the French foreign minister. The declaration is taken as the foundation for what is now the EU.

    Tellingly, its opening words are “World peace …” or rather “La paix mondiale …”.

    So it was always peace, not trade, that was the point. Trade was a means to secure peace.

    1. I know it was the Schumann Declaration. But for once I wanted people to read it rather than celebrate it – and it is as much a practical document as an idealistic one.

  27. Am currently reading Richard J Evans’ ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’ which gives some detail about the wholly counterproductive occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium as part of the Treaty of Versailles. Talking to a German, now in the US, friend yesterday, who recommended the book to me, (and who, incidentally was a child in Hamburg when it was destroyed by Allied bombing) we discussed how much better the reconstruction of Germany was handled post World War 2 than post WW1 – and not just of Germany of course. Where the ending of WW1 brought a sea of troubles, post WW2 looks a much better picture – with the ECSC and then the EU being major contributors to that improvement, even, decades later, giving a political and economic infrastructure to the nations in Eastern Europe emerging from Soviet thralldom.

    I don’t think the word “supranational” is at all helpful, as it gives the impression that these bodies are above the Nation States , when they are the creation of and answerable to the Nations. “Inter” is both more accurate and happily much less inflammatory. There are already enough people who think the EU is a superstate and/or a dictatorship, on not the slightest foundation.

    1. “I don’t think the word “supranational” is at all helpful, as it gives the impression that these bodies are above the Nation States , when they are the creation of and answerable to the Nations. “Inter” is both more accurate and happily much less inflammatory.”

      Flatly disagree. Shared institutions able to make legally binding decisions on member states is more than merely ‘international’ – it is supranational – and this is the word the EU itself uses.

      What you dub as “unhelpful’ and ‘inflammatory’ is the correct word, correctly used.

  28. My comment was based on Stephen Schuker,
    The End of Versailles,
    In Gordon Martell ed,
    The Origins of The Second World War Reconsidered.

    A French Foreign Office official, Jacques Seydoux developed the idea that Germany should a degree of international control of its heavy industry in return for the removal of foreign soldiers from The Rhineland.

  29. Agree that ‘inter-‘ is the wrong prefix, despite General de Gaulle’s best attempts to reduce the EC to an intergovernmental body. The debate is instead between ‘supra-‘ and ‘super-‘. Today’s EU has elements of both. A good discussion of this tension is found in histories by Alan Milward and John Gillingham.

  30. Two senior officials of the League of Nations – Jean Monnet and Sir Arthur Salter, a British civil servant – conceived of a United States of Europe, ruled by a government of unelected technocrats like themselves.

    Two things were anathema to them and they were very overt in their detestation : nation states with the power of veto (which they had seen destroy the League of Nations) and any need to consult the wishes of the people in elections.

    I’m sure,one day, the actual truth as to the genesis of the EU will come about. The fact that Arthur Salter a prominent British civil servant played his part in the formation of the EU precursor bodies ought to be better known about.

    1. And how closely does the actual European Union, as it operates today, reflect that bureaucrat’s dream? Any more than it represents the sort of federal United States of Europe that Churchill might have imagined. Sure, there is the Commission, but did Monnet and Salter imagine roles for the European Court of Justice, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament?

  31. A good reminder, well put.
    What make the great Leave undigestible for me and I guess, for others, is not just the lies and jingo used to sell it.
    It is that we never engaged to direct the union (important byways such as the single market accepted). We preferred to sit at the back of the bus like sniggering, smoking sixteen year olds, girning at every turn, are we not there yet?

  32. …when we could have made a positive case for putting the Ever Closer Union concet asside for a while. The two speed union was a great missed opportunity had we open eyes.

  33. I live 1 hr north of Paris and was planning to finally come home when the vote went for leave. On the 25th June I went to a retirement party in a nearby village. Jane (originally from Edinburgh) was leaving Unesco to join her French husband in retirement. They were very well integrated in their village.
    The cosmo Unesco types down from Paris were all wailing and tearing their hair that we Brits had undone such a project and a good force for good in the world. The local farmers on the other hand- to a man, pumped my hand and clapped my back- “well done you Brits! well done!!” “we are next!” French farmers- who would have thought it? Not the dumb Brits obviously they preferred to have no intelligence and so no strategy. Preferred carping & girning.
    The Farmers no longer speak of leaving.
    French folk no longer used the borrowed English terms, “fair play” & “team spirit”.

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