This article combines a rational choice framework with an analysis of contemporary European Union institutions to elucidate the causes of Grexit and Brexit. It shows that the sustainability of the EU in part or whole in “normal” times depends on member compatibility and coercive adaptation. If members share the same values, including a common vision of transnational governance and a commitment to mutual support (solidarity), the EU should be able to stick together through thick and thin. If, on the contrary, members hold incompatible outlooks on the distribution of transnational powers and solidarity, then the EU will be vulnerable to dismemberment. The EU today is prone to disunion because its members no longer share a common view of mutually acceptable transnational government and policy; powerful members insist upon bending recalcitrant members to their will (coercive adaptation), and participants hold contradictory attitudes towards solidarity on a variety of issues. Winston Churchill and Robert Schuman in the late 1940s hoped that their post-war Europe project would be something more than a “single market”; that it would become the cornerstone of European peace. They appreciated the value of cooperative economy, but considered material benefits icing on the cake. Brexit and Grexit are best seen in this larger perspective underscoring the wisdom of conciliation.
The paper proposes the construction of a multi-speed, multi-track and multi-level European Union framework as a way to increase the flexibility of the integration process and facilitate inter-country conflict resolution. The paper shows that this malleable framework is superior, even for sensitive macroeconomic spillover issues like monetary union and immigration.