Abstract: In this article, we present a game-theoretical model of political (dis)integration, and the incentives voters and politicians face during integration processes. We apply the model to the European Union. Preference homogeneity and economies of scale do not suffice to explain European integration. Rather, integration decisions are taken within an institutional setting that involves politicians with interests that may diverge from those of the voters they represent. Such politicians may take integration decisions that are not in line with their voters’ interests as a result. We show that voters can in some circumstances prevent integration by strategically electing representatives who are farther away from them. The model provides novel insights into the process of European (dis)integration and the voter–politician dynamics that determine it. In addition, our model offers an alternative explanation for the relative success of extremist parties in the European Union.
Keywords: European integration; European representatives; political institutions; spatial models; voters’ interests