Disintegration or Not?

  • Hans Vollaard
Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


EU-related dissatisfaction will not necessarily lead to full withdrawal from the EU. Full withdrawal will only happen if compensation for member states’ external consolidation, EU loyalty, voice opportunities within the EU, and exit costs are low, and viable national or international exit options are available. If this final condition is not fulfilled, member states will only seek partial exits (e.g., less power attributed to the EU, less compliance, smaller budget) or call for the exit of burdensome others. A first empirical check of all member states and the UK, Greece, and the Netherlands provides corroboration for these propositions (4a and 4b). Despite the unsettling effect of Brexit, the EU’s immediate and complete disintegration is unlikely because of the lack of better exit options in the eyes of many other governments, parties, and voters.


European disintegration Full exit Partial exit Brexit Grexit Nexit Disintegrative spiral 


  1. Best, H. (2012). Elite foundations of European integration: A causal analysis. In H. Best, G. Lengyel, & L. Verzichelli (Eds.), The Europe of elites: A study into the Europeanness of Europe’s political and economic elites (pp. 208–233). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Choi, G., & Veugelers, R. (2015). EU immigration to the US: Where is it coming from, and is brain drain real? Brussel: Bruegel. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from
  3. Clement, B., Nanou, K., & Verney, S. (2014). “We no longer love you, but we don’t want to leave you”: The Eurozone crisis and popular Euroscepticism in Greece. Journal of European Integration, 36(3), 247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Conti, N., Cotta, M., & Tavares de Almeida, P. (2010). Southern Europe: A distinctive and more pro-European region in the EU? South European Society and Politics, 15(1), 121–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Daddow, O. (2011). The UK, ‘Europe’ and the 2009 European parliament elections. In R. Harmsen & J. Schild (Eds.), Debating Europe: The 2009 European parliament elections and beyond (pp. 125–143). Baden: Nomos.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dinas, E., Jurado, I., Konstantinidis, N., & Walter, S. (2016). Keeping the Euro at any cost? Explaining preference for Euro membership in Greece. Presentation APSA Philadelphia, PA, 1–4 September.Google Scholar
  7. Dolezal, M., & Hutter, S. (2012). Participation and party choice: Comparing the demand side of the new cleavage across arenas. In H. Kriesi, E. Grande, M. Dolezal, M. Helbling, D. Höglinger, S. Hutter, & B. Wüest (Eds.), Political conflict in western Europe (pp. 67–95). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eichengreen, B. (2010). The breakup of the Euro area. In A. Alesina & F. Giavazzi (Eds.), Europe and the Euro (pp. 11–55). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. van Elsas, E., Hakhverdian, A., & van der Brug, W. (2016). United against a common foe? The nature and origins of Euroscepticism among left-wing and right-wing citizens. West European Politics, 39(6), 1181–1204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. European Commission. (2001). Perceptions of the European Union. Luxembourg: European Commission.Google Scholar
  11. European Commission. (2016). Standard Eurobarometer 2016. Luxembourg: European Commission.Google Scholar
  12. European Parliament. (2016). Parlemeter 2016: Analytical overview. Brussels: European Parliamentary Research Service.Google Scholar
  13. Goodwin, M., & Milazzo, C. (2017). Taking back control? Investigating the role of immigration in the 2016 vote for Brexit. British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 19(3), 450–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grande, E. (2012). Conclusion. In H. Kriesi, E. Grande, M. Dolezal, M. Helbling, D. Höglinger, S. Hutter, et al. (Eds.), Political conflict in western Europe (pp. 277–301). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hobolt, S. (2016). The Brexit vote: A divided nation, a divided continent. Journal of European Public Policy, 23(9), 1259–1277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jones, E. (2008). Economic adjustment and political transformation in small states. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Katzenstein, P. (1985). Small states in world markets: Industrial policy in Europe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Lansons, Opinium Research and Cambre Associates. (2013). In or out? Britain’s future in Europe. Retrieved December 8, 2013, from
  19. Lengyel, G. (2011). Supranational attachment of European elites and citizens. Europe-Asia Studies, 63(6), 1033–1054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mair, P. (2007). Political opposition and the European Union. Government and Opposition, 42(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pew Research Center. (2017). Post-Brexit, Europeans more favorable toward EU. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  22. Raines, T., Goodwin, M., & Cutts, D. (2017). The future of Europe: Comparing public and elites attitudes. London: Chatham House.Google Scholar
  23. Startin, N. (2015). Have we reached a tipping point? The mainstreaming of Euroscepticism in the UK. International Political Science Review, 36(3), 311–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Swank, D. (2002). Global capital, political institutions, and policy change in developed welfare states. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomassen, J., & Bäck, H. (2009). European citizenship and identity after European enlargement. In J. Thomassen (Ed.), The legitimacy of the European Union after enlargement (pp. 84–207). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Van Holsteyn, J. J. M., & Den Ridder, J. (2015). Europinie: Nederlandse burgers en houdingen ten aanzien van Europa. In H. Vollaard, J. van der Harst, & G. Voerman (Eds.), Van Aanvallen! naar verdedigen? De opstelling van Nederland ten aanzien van Europese integratie (pp. 355–384). Den Haag: BoomBestuurskunde.Google Scholar
  27. Verney, S. (2011). An exceptional case? Party and popular Euroscepticism in Greece, 1959–2009. South European Society and Politics, 16(1), 51–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Verney, S. (2015). Waking the sleeping giant or expressing domestic dissent? Mainstream Euroscepticism in crisis-stricken Greece. International Political Science Review, 36(3), 279–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Vollaard, H. (2014). Explaining European disintegration. Journal of Common Market Studies, 52(5), 1142–1159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vollaard, H., & Voerman, G. (2015). De Europese opstelling van Nederlandse Politieke Partijen. In H. Vollaard, J. van der Harst, & G. Voerman (Eds.), Van Aanvallen! naar verdedigen? De opstelling van Nederland ten aanzien van Europese integratie (pp. 99–182). Den Haag: BoomBestuurskunde.Google Scholar
  31. World Bank. (2017). Doing business 2017: Equal opportunity for all (Regional profile European Union). Washington, DC: World Bank. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. World Economic Forum. (2016). Global competitiveness report. Geneva: World Economic Forum. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Vollaard
    • 1
  1. 1.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations