The rationale of Brexit and the theories of European integration
Research background: Recent developments have raised doubts on future sustainability of the EU as successful political and economic organization. Many phenomena — from euro and sovereign debt crisis to the emergence of right-wing, populist and anti-liberal movements — have brought into question the actual foundations of European integration, be it economic cooperation or a community of values. This problem became even more topical after the Brexit referendum. For this very reason a new strand of research on European disintegration has lately began to appear. It was supposed to fill in a serious gap in the body of literature, which had so far optimistically focused on integration processes.
Purpose of the article: The aim of our work is to reflect on Brexit — which is an exemplification of disintegration tendencies — through the lenses of theories of European integration in order to find out how well the two match each other. We also try to identify the dynamics Brexit may provoke in theoretical research and in the future of European integration.
Methods: We take three most influential theories of integration, i.e. neofunctionalism, intergovernmentalism and post-functionalism, and attempt to analyze Brexit by means of their main assumptions and internal logic.
Findings & Value added: We believe that only post-functionalism is able to satisfactorily explain Brexit by turning to mass politics and questions of identity instead of economic rationality. We also suggest that analysis of such issues will become more important in future research on European integration.
Bressanelli, E., Chelotti, N., & Lehmann, W. (2019). Negotiating Brexit: the European parliament between participation and influence. Journal of European Integration, 41(3). doi: 10.1080/07036337.2019.1599372.
Grosse, T. G. (2016). Assumptions of the theory of regional disintegration: suggestions for further research. Przegląd Europejski, 42(4).
Greater London Authority (2018). Preparing for Brexit. London: Cambridge Econometrics.
Haas, E. B. (1958). The uniting of Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Hobolt, S. B. (2016). The Brexit vote: a divided nation, a divided continent. Journal of European Public Policy, 23(9). doi: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1225785.
Hoogle, L., & Marks, G. (2009). A postfunctionalist theory of European integration: from permissive consensus to constraining dissensus. British Journal of Political Science, 39(1). doi: 10.1017/S0007123408000409.
Hooghe, L., & Marks, G. (2019). Grand theories of European integration in the twenty-first century. Journal of European Public Policy, 26(8). doi: 10.1080/ 13501763.2019.1569711.
Jones, E. (2018). Towards a theory of disintegration. Journal of European Public Policy, 25(3). doi: 10.1080/13501763.2017.1411381.
Kriesi, H., Grande, E., Dolezal, M., Helbling, M., Hoglinger, D., Hutter, S., & Wuest, B. (2012). Political conflict in Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Martill, B., & Staiger, U. (2018). Rethinking the futures of Europe. In U. Staiger & B. Martill (Eds.). Brexit and beyond: rethinking the futures of Europe. London: UCL Press. doi: 10.14324/ 111.9781787352759.
McTague, T. (2019) How the UK lost the Brexit battle. Politico, 27.032019.
Milward, A. (1992). The European rescue of the nation state. London: Routledge.
Moravcsik, A. (1998). The choice for Europe: social purpose & state power from Messina to Maastricht. London: Routledge.
Nugent, N. (2017). The government and politics of the European Union. London: Palgrave.
Patel, O. (2018). The EU and the Brexit negotiations: institutions, strategies and objectives, UCL European Institute, London.
Phelan, W. (2012). What is sui generis about the European Union? Costly international cooperation in a self-contained regime. International Studies Review, 14(3). doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2486.2012.01136.
Richardson, J. J. (2006). European Union: power and policy-making. London: Routledge.
Richardson, J. J. (2018). Brexit: the EU policy-making state hits the populist buffers. Political Quarterly, 89(1). doi: 10.1111/1467-923X.12453.
Rosamond, B. (2016). Brexit and the problem of European disintegration. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 12(4).
Sampson, T. (2017). Brexit: the economics of international disintegration. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(4). doi: 10.1257/jep.31.4.163.
Schimmelfennig, F. (2017). Theorizing crisis in European integration. In D. Dinan, N. Nugent & W. E. Paterson (Eds.). The European Union in crisis. London: Palgrave.
Schimmelfennig, F. (2018). Brexit: differentiated disintegration in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy, 25(8). doi: 10.1080/13501763 .2018.1467954.
Schmitter, P. C., & Lefkofridi, Z. (2016). Neo-functionalism as a theory of disintegration. Chinese Political Science Review, 1(1). doi: 10.1007/s41111-016-0012-4.
Teney, C., Lacewell, O. P., & De Wilde, P. (2014). Winners and losers of globalization in Europe: attitudes and ideologies. European Political Science Review 6(4). doi.:10.1017/S1755773913000246.
Tetlow, G., & Stojanovic, A. (2018). Understanding the economic impact of Brexit. London: Institue for Government.
The Consequences of a British exit from the European Union. (2016). European movement international, policy brief. Retrieved form https://europeanmovem ent.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/EMI_16_Policy-Position_Brexit_17_VIEW _FINAL.pdf (6.07.2019).
Wahl-Jorgensen, K. (2016). The emotional politics of the EU Referendum: Bregrexit and beyond. In D. Jackson , E. Thorsen & D. Wring (Eds.). EU referendum analysis 2016: media, voters and the campaign. Early reflections from leading UK academics. Poole: Bournemouth University.
Webber, D. (2014). How likely is it that the European Union will disintegrate? A critical analysis of competing theoretical perspectives. European Journal of International Relations, 20(2). doi: 10.1177/1354066112461286.
Zielonka, J. (2014). Is the EU doomed? Cambridge: Polity.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.