Brexit pp 99-112 | Cite as

Great Britain and Differentiated Integration in Europe

  • Rafał Riedel


The United Kingdom has always been a special case in the European integration project. The British exceptionalism manifested in various forms and ways over the history. June 23rd 2016 delivered another culmination point in the story of the stubborn European’s relations with its continental partners. The so-called Brexit referendum, which brought about victory for the supporters of the UK leaving the European Union, marks an important milestone in these relations. It has never been an easy marriage and many times threatened by the divorce. Instead of becoming ever closer, the European Union becomes ever loser and the UK is ever closer to leaving. Brexit is not only vital for the British, it is potentially destructive for the EU from the core. The UK changes its status inside from an integration-tolerant country (not a very ambitious one anyway), to integration unfriendly country, which endangers the very fundaments of the integration process. It produces externalities to be consumed by other Member States and non-members as well.

Accordingly, the main purpose of this chapter is to shed light on the positive discrimination of the UK inside the EU and its entertaining the status of a preferential membership. The referendum is seen as a game in which London tried to win even more beneficial conditions inside the EU and now, after the referendum, will try to build a status of a preferential non-membership. From this perspective, this process can be seen as an exercise in searching the limits of differentiated integration. The problem has always been there, the Brexit referendum made it crystal clear. It may serve as a wakeup call for the necessary reforms of the EU.

Based on the analysis of the existing literature about the differentiated integration, this contribution sees the June 2016 Brexit referendum as a structural problem for the EU. Following the logic of the integration evolution from one crisis to another one, it is possible to interpret the Brexit decision as an opportunity for the EU’s reforms. The reformist impulse of Brexit may enhance the European integration in two various possible ways. First, it may help to reform the EU into a more differentiated system that will allow accommodate countries willing to integrate at various speeds and extends. Secondly, once “getting rid” of the major troublemaker and marauder, that is Britain as a country opposing the further integration, the EU may accelerate now towards the “ever closer union”.


United Kingdom Brexit referendum Differentiated integration Europe 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafał Riedel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Political ScienceOpole UniversityOpolePoland

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