EU “opt-outs,” special exemptions from EU policies, are likely to be in the news in the coming years as the British seek to renegotiate the terms of their membership in the union. This book examines what actually happens when a government secures an opt-out, as Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and others have done on issues such as social policy, border controls, the euro, defense, and asylum and immigration. The academic theory and language in this book are unnecessarily complex, yet its basic point is important: opt-outs can actually strengthen the EU. They aid progress by permitting the union to move ahead on vital policies, preventing individual members from gumming up the works. Once those policies are in place, they often become so important that the states that have opted out find quiet ways to become as involved as their domestic politics will permit. On the surface, the EU might seem to be a legalistic body, but, as this book demonstrates, its true decision-making and enforcement processes are based on unwritten norms.
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