MJIEL Vol 16 Issue 2 2019 - Article 2
Brexit as Differentiated Integration:
The Diverging Imaginaries of Future Trade Relationships
Lisa Mardikian and Clair Gammage
ABSTRACT: This article contributes to the academic debate on the effects that the Brexit process may have on European integration through the lens of differentiated integration. It argues that Brexit does not constitute a process of regional disintegration but rather represents a reconstruction of the United Kingdom (UK)–European Union (EU) relationship within the existing normative orders of the EU through which an intense level of heterogeneity is recognised alongside diverging ‘scripts’ in preference formation. Brexit signals transformative shifts beyond the confines of the UK–EU relationship and it is submitted that Brexit is best conceptualised as a ‘performative act’ that can be understood differently depending on the vantage point from which it is observed. In the context of trade, Brexit constitutes different imaginaries for the UK and the EU, and for their existing and future trading partners. This article identifies diverging imaginaries regarding the position of the UK, and the EU, in the global economy post-Brexit with a focus on India. It is shown that such imaginaries merely accentuate differential integration in Europe without leading to the disintegration of its normative structures. To conclude, this article submits that the diverging scripts of Brexit illustrate the opportunities and challenges ahead not only for the UK but for the rest of the world.

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