Why withdrawal from the European Union is undemocratic

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The Lisbon Treaty from 2009 introduced the possibility for individual member states to withdraw from the European Union on the basis of a unilateral decision. But would withdrawal be democratically legitimate? In fact, the all-affected principle suggests that it is undemocratic for subunits to leave larger political units because it adversely affects other citizens without including them in the decision. However, it is unclear what the currency of this affectedness is and, hence, why withdrawal would be undemocratic. We argue that it is the effect of withdrawal on the status of citizens as free and equal that is decisive and that explains why unilateral withdrawal of subunits from larger units is democratically undesirable. Moreover, on the ‘all-affected status principle’ that we develop, even multilaterally agreed withdrawal is undemocratic because the latter diminishes the future ability of citizens to make decisions together regarding issues that affect their status as free and equal. On this basis, we conclude that it would be undemocratic for a member state to withdraw from the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Theory
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)436-465
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

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