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Membership must matter: Brexit and the limits of differentiated integration

European Union
Integration
Differentiation
Brexit
S017
Sandra Kröger
University of Exeter
Stefan Telle
European University Institute

Thursday 15:00 - 16:00 GMT (07/12/2023)

Abstract

Speaker: Stefan Telle, University of Twente Chair: Sandra Kröger, University of Exeter Internal and external differentiation are a central feature of the European Union (EU). The paper submits that differentiation weakens the link between EU membership and access to EU rights/benefits. In this view, greater differentiation would foster centrifugal dynamics and regime instability, while limiting differentiation reinforces regime stability. The paper uses the framework to make sense of the EU’s response to Brexit. It shows that the EU defined significant limits for internal and external differentiation over the course of the Brexit process. First, the new settlement negotiations established that there are strict limits to opt-outs from existing obligations. Second, the EU’s insistence on a “phased approach” to the Brexit talks established that there could be no partial exits from the EU. Third, the negotiations on the new settlement established the indivisibility of the four freedoms and that a non-member state could not have access to the same rights and benefits as a member state. These limits to internal and external differentiation re-established a clearer distinction between member states (ins) and third states (outs). The paper concludes that limiting differentiation contributed to regime stability in the Brexit negotiations, but it may create barriers to future EU enlargements.